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by F. N. HOWES 

This is the first work to deal com- 
prehensively with the bee plants 
or bee pasturage of the British 
Isles. This may be somewhat sur- 
prising to those who realize that 
plant nectar is the "raw material of 
the honey industry' and that those 
plants that secrete it in a manner 
available to the hive bee constitute 
the very foundations of apiculture. 
The writer is a member of the 
scientific stall* of Kew Gardens, and 
has a long experience of beekeeping, 
not only in Britain but in other 
lands. The appearance of such a 
book, written by a competent 
authority, is vital at the present 
time in view of the great increase in 
beekeeping that has taken place 
among all classes of the community, 
in town and country districts alike. 
This increase of interest has come 
to stay. 

The book is written for the 
general reader in a pleasingly simple 
style, and technical terms are 
largely avoided. It should appeal 
not only to beekeepers, but to all 
interested in plants and plant life. 

'I can wholeheartedly recommend 
this authoritative book to beekeepers 
and growers alike, and I am con- 
vinced that it will deservedly become 
the standard work on the subject in 
this country.' 
Journal of the Ministry of 


'This excellent book has the stamp 

of authority, the writer being a 

botanist of repute as well as an 

expert beekeeper. It should prove 

of great interest to both the bee- 

! keeper and the more general reader.' 

The Listener 


F. N. HOWES, D.Sc. 
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 

Formerly Botanist, Agricultural Department, Union 

of South Africa, and Economic Botanist, Agricultural 

Department, Gold Coast. Expert, British Beekeepers' 

Association and member of the Apis Club 


an account 

of those plants, wild and cultivated, 

of value to the hive bee, 

and for honey production 

in the British Isles 

F. N. HOWES, D.Sc. 


24 Russell Square 


First published in 

by Faber and Faber Limited 

24, Russell Squan London W.C.i 

Second impression April mcmxlvi 

Third impression January mcmxlviii 

Printed in Great Britain by 

Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth 

All rights reserved 


There has been a marked increase of interest in beekeeping 
and the production of honey throughout the country in 
recent years. This may have been initiated by the Second 
World War, with the consequent shortage of sweetening materials, 
and partly by other considerations, such as the better understand- 
ing of some of the major bee diseases that now prevails. The num- 
ber of beekeepers has been doubled or trebled in many localities 
according to the statistics of Beekeepers' Associations and doubtless 
the total production of home-produced Honey ka&MDeen stepped up 
considerably. It is to be hoped this increase in the Nation's annual 
honey crop will continue, and, what is of even greater importance, 
that this increase in the nation's bee population will also be main- 
tained, for it has been proved that the main value of the honey bee 
in the national economy is as a pollinator for fruit, clovers, and 
other seed and farm crops. Its value in this respect far outweighs 
its value as a producer of honey. 

Plant nectar has been described as the 'raw material of the honey 
industry' and those plants that produce it, in a manner available 
to the honey bee, constitute the very foundations of apiculture. 
They are obviously of first importance to the beekeeper, whether 
he or she is a large or small scale beekeeper or belongs to the 
hobbyist class. A knowledge of these plants and their relative 
values, for nectar or for pollen, is likely to add much to the pleasure 
and the profit of beekeeping. An attempt has here been made to 
deal with the more important bee plants in the British Isles as well 
as many others that are only of minor importance. Among the 
latter are to be found both wild and garden plants. Although not 
sufficiently prevalent in most cases to affect honey yields to any 
extent such plants have been purposely included in the knowledge 
that their presence is always beneficial, especially as they so often 
help to maintain or support bees between the major nectar flows. 
Much of the pollen collected by bees, so vital for the sustenance of 
their young, comes from such plants. Furthermore, beekeepers are 
often keen gardeners and nature lovers and interested in any plant 
that proves attractive to bees. This no doubt accounts for the 



present popularity of bee gardens or gardens devoted exclusively 
to the cultivation of good bee plants, to which a chapter has been 
given. From the earliest times gardening has been closely associ- 
ated or connected with beekeeping and the two arc obviously 
complementary and well suited for being carried on together. 

Many owners of gardens and flower lovers with no special in- 
terest in beekeeping derive great pleasure from observing bees 
industriously at work on flowers and are fond of growing some of 
those plants which they know will prove a special attraction, even 
though they may not always be in the front rank as garden plants. 
Indications are given as to what plants are likely to be most suit- 
able in this connection and special emphasis laid on some of the 
newer plant introductions. 

Among the minor bcc plants will be found quite a number of 
introduced trees and shrubs that are grown to a greater or less 
extent for ornament. Some of these are important for honey in 
their native land and where this is known the fact is mentioned. 
As some of these plants, especially among those from the Orient, 
are of comparatively recent introduction, they may become more 
generally grown and therefore more useful as bee fodder at some 
future time. It is for this reason they have been included. 

The more serious-minded beekeeper and honey producer may 
be interested only in those plants tluit fill or help to fill his hives. 
These will be found described at much greater length in Section 2. 
Some of the major honey plants of Britain such as the clovers, 
lime, heather and fruit trees are also important for honey in other 
countries. It is hoped therefore that the book may not be without 
interest to beekeepers and those interested in such plants in other 

The writer is indebted to colleagues and fellow beekeepers for 
helpful suggestions in the preparation of this work, which has been 
in the course of preparation for many years. During this period 
much time has been spent in observing the behaviour of the honey 
bee towards various wild and introduced plants at different seasons 
of the year and in different parts of the country. Thanks are due 
to the Bentham Moxon Trustees, Kcw, and to Messrs. Flatters and 
Garnet, Ltd., Manchester, for some of the photographs. 

14 Nylands Avenue 
KeWy Surrey 
June 1945 


Preface page 5 



Nectar and Nectar Secretion 1 1 

Honey in Relation to Nectar Source 16 
Notes on Unpalatable and Poisonous Honey 20 

Pollen 24 

The Hive Bee and Pollination 29 
Artificial Bee Pasturage or Planting for Bees 35 

Garden Flowers and the Honey Bee 39 

Bee Gardens 42 

Apiary Hedges and Windbreaks 44 

Honeydcw and Propolis 47 



Clover 52 

Lime 59 

Heather 66 

Fruit Blossom 72 

Sainfoin 77 

Mustard and Charlock 78 

Hawthorn 80 

Sycamore 82 

Blackberry 83 

Willow-herb 85 

Field Beans 86 

Buckwheat 88 

Dandelion 89 




page 92 

Bibliography P a &e 2I 3 

Index 215 

NOTE: Bracketed figures in the text refer to items of the 
Bibliography on p. 


facing page 

1 . False Acacia or Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacid) 1 6 
Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipiferd) 16 

2. Ragwort (Senecio jacobaed) 17 
Privet (Ligustrum) 17 

3. Willow Catkins (Salix capred) 20 

4. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) 2 1 
The Snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) 2 1 

5. Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) 28 
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiacd) 28 

6. Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus) 29 
Catnip (Nepeta catarid) 29 

7. Wild White Clover (Trifolium repens) 64 
Melilotus or S\veet Clover (Melilotus alba) 64 

8. An Avenue of Limes 65 

9. Weeping Silver Lime 80 

10. Heather or Ling (Calluna vulgaris) 81 
Bell Heath (Erica cinered) 8 1 

1 1 . Willowherb or Fire weed (Epilobium angustifolium) 84 

12. Apple Blossom 85 
May or Hawthorn 85 

13. Charlock (Brassica arvensis) 92 
Field Thistle (Cirsium arvense) 92 

14. Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis} 93 
Field Mint (Mentha arvensis} 93 

15. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosd) 96 
Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) 96 

1 6. Anemone (Anemone pulsatilla var.) 97 

17. Teazle. The wild teazle (Dipsacus sylvestris) and 

the fuller's teazle (Dipsacus fullonum) 112 

Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) 112 

1 8. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfard) 113 
Dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale} 1 1 3 



facing page 

1 9. Yellow Buddleia (Buddleia globosd) 1 16 
The Indian Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus indicd) 1 16 

20. Almond (Prunus amygdalus) 117 
Escallonia (Escallonia langleyensis) 117 

2 r . Wild Chicory (Cichorium intybus) 1 24 

The Blood Red Geranium (Geranium sanguineurri) 124 

22. The Water Figwort (Scrophularia aqualicd) 125 
Water Mint (Mentha aquaticd) 125 

23. Dwarf Gorse (Ulex nanus) 128 
Ye\v ( Taxus b ace at a) 128 

24. Aubrietia (Aubrietia sp.) 129 
Catmint (Nepeta marifolia) 129 

25. Hellebore (Helleborus niger) 160 
Anchusa (Anchusa italica var.) 160 

26. The Pagoda Tree or Japanese Acacia (Sopliora 

japonic a) 1 6 1 

A Bush or shrubby Honeysuckle (Lonicerastandishii) 1 6 1 

2 7 . Borage (Borago officinalis) 1 64 

Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) 164 

28. Mallow (Afalva sylvestris) 165 
Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare} 165 

29. Michaelmas Daisies in a Wild Garden i 72 
Sunflowers 1 72 

30. Thrift (Statice maritimd) i 73 
Sea Lavender (Limonium vulgare) 1 73 

31. Sea Cabbage (Brassica oleraced) 1 76 
Sea Aster (Aster tripolium) 1 76 

32. Veronica 17? 
Purple Loosestrife {Ly thrum salicaria var. rosea) 177 


Section 1 


The production of nectar by plants is all important to the 
beekeeper for without adequate sources and supplies of nec- 
tar he cannot obtain honey. While a certain amount of use- 
ful knowledge has been acquired, particularly in recent years, with 
regard to nectar and the best conditions for its free production in 
some of the major honey plants, there is still much that is shrouded 
in mystery and has yet to be unravelled. This applies not only to 
most of the minor honey plants but to many of the major ones as 
well. Why is it for instance that heather is so capricious as a nectar 
yielder and why is hawthorn so fickle, yielding a good honey crop 
one year but nothing for many succeeding years, even under ap- 
parently favourable weather conditions? 

The fresh nectar of flowers is little more than a weak solution of 
cane sugar, generally containing 60 to 90 per cent water, with 
small quantities of other substances such as essential or volatile 
oils, flavourings, gums and traces of mineral matter. These lesser 
ingredients become of importance as the water is driven off the 
nectar in the hive and the nectar is converted into honey, for they 
defermine the aroma and flavour of the honey and account for the 
well-known characteristics of honeys from different floral sources. 
Nectar is usually colourless but may be slightly coloured. It is not 
unusual for it to be noticeably scented or to possess a spicy taste. 
In some flowers it is produced very copiously as in the honey- 
suckle, certain orchids, the tulip tree (Liiiodendrori) in North 
America and some of the Cape Proteas or sugar bushes. The latter 
are so rich in nectar that it was a common practice in early days 
at the Cape before the advent of cheap sugar to boil the flowers 
in water and to concentrate the liquid to the consistency of a thick 
syrup for table use. On the other hand many flowers, often of great 
importance to the beekeeper, secrete only very small quantities of 
nectar. But the honey bee, with her specialized tongue or sucking 
mechanism, is able to absorb the most minute quantities of nectar 
even when the surface appears only moist. 
The function of nectar in the flower is to attract insects (or in 



some cases birds) and so assist in bringing about cross pollination. 
While some insects, such as beetles, will visit flowers only for the 
pollen which they eat on the spot, quite a number of other insects 
like flies are attracted only by the nectar and do not eat or make 
use of the pollen in any way. Thus the presence of nectar as well 
as pollen is likely to lead to an increased number of visitors. 

The sugar concentration of nectar in the flower and the changes 
that take place in it during the day have now been studied in the 
case of many plants. This applies particularly to tree fruits, clovers 
and other crops where studies in pollination with a view to in- 
creased fruit or seed setting have automatically led to investiga- 
tions on the sugar content of the nectar. The concentration of 
nectar in the early morning is often very low, sometimes too low 
to attract the honey bee, but as the day advances various factors 
such as sunshine, wind, a rising temperature or reduced humidity 
assist in concentrating the nectar so that by midday the sugar per- 
centage may be doubled or even three or four times as much. With 
some tree fruits such as the apple, it is not unusual for bees in the 
early part of the day to work the flowers only for pollen, but to turn 
their attention to nectar later when it has become more concen- 
trated and to them more palatable. It is due to such differences in 
the sugar concentration of nectar that bees will forsake one kind of 
plant for another as the day advances. In the case of an open type 
of flower evaporation is likely to be more rapid and the sugar con- 
centration increases at a quicker rate than might apply with a 
more closed type of flower. In fruit orchards in Surrey for instance 
it has been noticed that bees will forsake gooseberry and currant 
flowers for cherry blossom. The fact that they have been known 
to favour dandelions in preference to plums, and charlock to other 
fruits in some districts is probably also due to differences in the 
sugar concentration of the nectar. 

Numerous devices, in some cases very ingenious and efficient, 
are to be found among different kinds of flowers for protecting the 
nectar from rain or from short-tongued insects that are unlikely to 
be effective in pollination. This often takes the form of dense hairs 
immediately above the nectar and attached to the side of the 
flower tube or to the bases of the stamens. On the other hand some 
flowers, such as the maples and the bulk of the carrot family 
(Umbelliferae) offer little or no protection to the nectar which is 
entirely exposed and affords a free feast to all. Flies and other 
short-tongued insects are frequent visitors to such flowers. 

Many factors are known to affect nectar secretion in plants. 


Some of the more obvious and important of these are temperature, 
humidity, nature of the soil, soil moisture, wind and the age or 
vigour of the plant. With different plants these factors vary in im- 
portance and it is this that makes it difficult to assess the optimum 
conditions for a good nectar flow with any particular nectar plant. 
For instance soil is of primary importance in the case of heather 
and the clovers, the one requiring an acid and the others an alka- 
line soil. But with willow-herb and blackberry, both good nectar 
sources, the nature of the soil seems to be of little consequence for 
both grow freely and are much worked by bees for nectar in all 
types of soil, whether light or heavy, acid or chalk. 

Some plants, such as willows and white clover, will secrete nec- 
tar at quite low temperatures, temperatures probably lower than 
those normally required for bees to fly. On the other hand there 
are plants such as the false acacia (Robinid) that will not secrete 
nectar unless the temperature is fairly high. This is the reason why 
the false acacia is a good honey plant in regions of hot Continental 
summers, whereas with the average cool English summer it is of 
little account as a source of nectar. Other trees such as the tulip 
tree (Liriodendrori) and tupelo ( Nyssa] renowned as nectar yielders 
in their native land, North America, seem to be of little or no value 
for nectar in Britain, possibly for similar reasons. 

With some important honey plants the opinion is held that cool 
nights followed by fine hot days provide the best conditions for a 
free nectar flow. This doubtless may hold with many plants, in- 
cluding white clover, and may explain why the best honey districts 
in many countries are to be found at the higher altitudes, the nights 
being cooler there. However, it certainly does not appear to hold 
with the lime, where warm nights followed by warm sultry days, 
but not fine hot days, give the best nectar flow and honey crops 
(see Lime), provided always of course, there is adequate soil mois- 

Winds may be favourable or unfavourable according to circum- 
stances. Severe cold winds are always likely to be inimical, but 
mild drying winds after a period of rain can have a distinctly 
beneficial effect. 

The state of health, age, or vigour of the plant may be important 
with regard to nectar secretion. With heather it has been found 
that nectar is produced more copiously from comparatively young 
plants, i.e. heather recently burned over, than by those that are 
tall and woody and many years old. If growth is impeded through 
inadequate soil moisture and lack of rain, or there is any suggestion 



of wilting, the production of nectar ceases immediately. Drought 
may often be the cause of a dearth of nectar and a poor honey 
season, particularly with shallow surface rooting plants. In the 
case of white clover it is responsible for failure in some seeisons in 
the south of England. With nectar-yielding trees like the lime and 
other deep rooting plants drought is not so likely to be serious. 

It is in this connection, i.e. the establishment or maintenance of 
adequate soil or subsoil moisture, that the weather some time be- 
fore the honey flow, even months ahead, may be important. In 
some districts it is held that plenty of rain in the spring is necessary 
for a good nectar flow the following summer. 

Sunlight is believed to have a bearing on the stimulation of nec- 
tar secretion with many plants, apart from the question of tem- 
perature. It has frequently been observed for instance that when 
some plants are shaded and others of the same kind are in full sun, 
the former may be completely ignored by bees, but the latter 
visited freely. This has been observed by the writer to hold very 
forcibly in the case of heaths at Kew, while the same has been 
recorded by other observers with other plants, including clovers. 
Statistics show that good, medium and poor honey seasons in the 
British Isles over a long period of years work out in the ratio of 
i :2:i, or roughly in every eight-year cycle two will be good honey 
years, two will be poor and four will be average. The same ratio 
has been recorded for parts of Europe, e.g. Switzerland. For every 
district there is a normal average honey crop, dependent upon the 
amount and the nature of the bee forage available. Some years it 
will rise above the average. In others it will sink well beloy it. 
Abnormal circumstances such as the extensive ploughing up of 
clover pastures for cereals and root crops, as takes place in war- 
time, may of course fundamentally alter the honey-producing 
capacity of any district. 

Locality is of prime importance in beekeeping. Not only does it 
govern the method of management adopted but a distance of a few 
miles is sometimes sufficient to account for a marked difference in 
the honey-producing capacity of a district. Often this is due to 
differences in the soil, which may have a direct bearing on nectar 
secretion. Topography may also be important, for some plants, 
such as while clover, are believed to secrete better on hilly or 
sloping than on flat land (14). Tliis may be mainly a matter of 
drainage and soil aeration. With heather some consider plants on 
peat and bog land do not yield much nectar whereas those on hill 
land with granite or ironstone subsoil yield well (22). On the other 


hand in dry seasons vegetation at the lower levels may suffer less 
from drought than that on exposed hillsides and so be in a better 
condition for nectar secretion. In the case of early and late flower- 
ing nectar plants topography may be important with regard to the 
existence of frost pockets and cold air drainage, for flowers injured 
or destroyed by frost are of no use for nectar. 


Nectar is produced in the flower by special organs, called nec- 
taries. Often these consist of little other than small groups of 
specialized secretory cells, but in some plants they may be more 
elaborate. Among the plants that are valuable to the hive bee for 
nectar an interesting range of different types of nectary is to be 

The usual place for the nectary or nectaries is at the base of the 
flower, where it frequently takes the form of a raised ring or ridge 
of secretory tissue, often yellow in colour. The nectary may, how- 
ever, be situated on almost any part of the flower sepal, petal, 
stamen, or pistil but these positions are less common. 

The lime affords a good example of nectar being secreted by the 
sepals. These are boat-shaped and lined with hairs which assist in 
holding the drop of nectar as it forms in the hollow or inner surface 
of the sepal, for the flower is generally in a pendant position. The 
nectaries themselves, slits of secretory tissue, are invisible to the 
naked eye and hidden by the hairs. In many of the Cruciferae, the 
family which includes charlock and mustard, the sepals are bent 
bacl^or curved, and serve as containers for the nectar. It is not 
secreted by them, as in the lime, but by nectaries at the base of the 

Instances of nectar being secreted by the petals are afforded by 
the snowdrop and the tulip tree. In the snowdrop the nectar is 
formed in grooves on the inner surface of the petals and in the 
tulip tree on the yellow patch near the base of each petal. Interest- 
ing cup-like nectaries are to be found in the hellebore (Christmas 
Rose) and winter aconite (Eranthis) where the whole petal has been 
modified into a vase-like structure to secrete and hold the nectar. 
In many flowers there is a spur or pouch for the nectar, the garden 
nasturtium and some of the shrubby honeysuckles being good 

Instances of stamens fulfilling the role of nectar secretion are 
to be found in the wild clematis and the violet. In the former 
the nectar appears as tiny droplets on the filaments or stalks of 



the stamens. In the violet the enlarged appendanges of two of the 
anthers bear the secretory tissue producing the nectar. This col- 
lects in the spur of the petals immediately beneath it. 

There are many examples of nectar being secreted by nectaries 
on the pistil or ovary of the flower. In the garden hyacinth three 
small dots may be seen near the apex of the ovary. These are the 
actual nectaries and frequently beads of nectar may be seen adher- 
ing to them. Many other allied plants secrete nectar in a similar 
fashion. The scabious and the teasel (in fact all the family Dip- 
saceae) also secrete nectar from the ovary. In the marsh marigold 
(Calthd) the nectaries take the form of conspicuous appendages 
attached to the female organs or carpels. 

There is much variation in the shape and form of the nectary 
itself. In the almond, plum and many other Rosaceous plants, the 
receptacle or base of the flower is hollow and the nectar may ap- 
pear first as tiny dots or droplets anywhere on its surface. These 
gradually enlarge and may eventually coalesce. In the thistles and 
other members of the same family (Compositae) a small ring at the 
base of the flower tube secretes the nectar. As the flower tube is 
usually narrow and partly occupied by the pistil, the nectar soon 
rises in the tube, sometimes to a height of several millimetres. 
Much the same holds with the clovers, but in this case it is the 
staminal tube and not the corolla tube that holds the nectar. In 
the willow catkin the individual flowers are much reduced, con- 
sisting of only a single scale plus one or two stamens, or pistil in 
the case of the female flower. The nectary takes the form of a knob 
at the base of the scale which produces and becomes surrounded 
by a single drop of nectar: The nectar is usually easily seen in 
willow catkins, male or female, that have been kept in a warm 
room overnight. 


The nature and quality of honey is mainly governed by the plant 
source from which it is obtained. This determines also the flavour, 
aroma, density, colour and brightness of the honey. In many coun- 
tries large quantities of honey are obtained from a single plant 
source, as for instance in the extensive buckwheat areas in Russia 
and the eastern United States, Citrus in California and Palestine, 
Eucalyptus in Australia and Tea-tree honey in New Zealand. In 
Britain, however, with the exception of heather honey, most of the 
honey produced is a blend of some sort or other, although clover 





PLATE i. in native 

U.S.A.), but uncertain nectar vieldcrs in the of Britain 

K \ < i \v < > K *r Setiecio 

A common weed of pastures and \\aste plarrs 

1 tt I V K T 

PLATK L>, Sources of* objectionable or unpalatable honey 

may predominate. Some (14) consider the fact that English honey 
is for the most part a natural blend accounts for its popularity as a 
table delicacy over most imported honeys, and that a single plant 
honey is unlikely to be so attractive to the palate as a natural blend 
prepared by the bees. 

The main honeys that are produced in the British Isles in any 
quantity in a reasonably pure or only slightly blended state besides 
white clover and heather are lime, sainfoin, fruit blossom, mustard 
or charlock, hawthorn and perhaps buckwheat, sycamore or dan- 
delion in restricted areas. 

The term 'flower honey' sometimes used among beekeepers is 
intended to denote any honey other than heather. Another term 
often heard is 'tree honey'. This is applied to the early season honey 
obtained mainly in the south from fruit blossom and any other 
early flowering, nectar yielding trees that may be in flower at 
about that time, such as sycamore, the wild cherries and perhaps 
horsi, chestnut, hawthorn or holly. 'Tree honey' is obtained from 
different plant sources in varying amounts according to locality 
and is itself therefore very variable, but is generally rather dark 
and strong flavoured. Many of the dark or unusual honeys seen at 
honey shows come in this category (14). The term 'tree honey' is 
not applied to lime. 

There is a fairly wide colour range among English honeys al- 
though the majority are some shade of amber. Very pale or water 
white honey has been obtained from willow-herb (Epilobium). Lime 
is often distinctly greenish, bell heath (Erica cinerea) reddish, and 
heather and buckwheat very dark. There is no direct correlation 
between flavour and colour but in general the lighter or pale 
coloured honeys are milder in flavour than the dark coloured. 

It is generally believed that the type of soil or subsoil on which 
honey plants grow has a bearing on the resulting honey and that 
in general clay soils give a darker honey than is obtained from the 
same plant on light or sandy soil. The presence or the relative 
amounts of certain elements such as iron, manganese and copper 
are also believed to influence the colour of the honey (30). 

Vitamins have now been shown to be present in various honeys 
but only in very small amounts (from o to 20 mgm. per 100 gnis.), 
the quantity being insufficient seriously to affect or enhance the 
protective food value of the honey. It luis been shown that honey 
from different floral sources shows much variation with regard to 
vitamin content and it is thought this may be dependent upon the 
amount of pollen actually present in the honey. 

B 17 


While honey production takes place in the British Isles under all 
sorts of conditions some of the best honey producing districts are 
those on the plains overlying the chalk in the south and east of 
England, and in sheep areas where clovers are generally an im- 
portant constituent of the vegetation. It is a common saying that 
'bees follow the sheep' (29). Most of the large or commercial honey 
producers in the country have their apiaries or 'outfits' in areas 
where the soil has a high lime content, i.e. on the chalk belt which 
runs from Dorset through the Chilterns and on into Norfolk. Simi- 
lar conditions exist in the Cotswolds and elsewhere. 

Among the more distinctive types of English honey, that from 
white clover is one of the most esteemed and has a more or less 
universal appeal. It has a delicate flavour and aroma and good 
density. The colour is light, varying from water white to pale 
amber. This may be influenced by the nature of the soil but it is 
also known that when the flow is a rapid one and clover nectar 
available in abundance the honey is likely to be lighter in colour 
than when the flow is not so fast and more protracted ow T ing to 
less suitable w r eathcr conditions. Another of the virtues of clover 
honey is that it crystallizes or 'sets' witli a smooth, fine grain. 

Lime honey in a more or less pure state is available in some 
localities, mainly urban areas. The density is not so good as that 
of clover and the colour slightly greenish as a rule. The flavour is 
distinctive and suggestive of peppermint. In some seasons the 
honey is darkened and spoiled by the presence of honcydcw, lime 
trees being bad offenders in this respect. 

The honey from heather or ling is very distinctive and quite 
different from all other English honeys. Its thick, jelly-like con- 
sistency is perhaps its main feature. This prevents its being ex- 
tracted with an ordinary rotary extractor and presses are used to 
obtain run honey. The air bubbles that form on pressing remain 
in the honey thereby imparting a characteristic appearance, and 
do not rise to the surface or disappear as in other honeys. In spite 
of its dark colour and strong flavour heather honey is much sought 
after and always commands higher prices than other honey. Bell 
heath (Erica cimied) or bell heather as it is also called yields quite 
a different type of honey which is not gelatinous and may be ex- 
tracted in the ordinary way. It is reddish in colour (port wine) 
when pure with a pronounced flavour somewhat resembling that 
of ling. Although this heath is usually to be found growing with 
ling, honey from it is sometimes obtained in a reasonably pure 
state for it is in flower a good deal earlier than ling. 



Honey from the blossoms of tree fruits (apple, pear, cherry, or 
plum) is variable according to the kind of fruit grown but is usually 
rather dark and strong in flavour. Honey from miscellaneous fruit 
blossoms probably constitutes the bulk of the so-called 'tree honey' 
already described. Where extensive apple orchards exist a reason- 
ably pure apple honey might be obtained in favourable seasons. 
Apple honey may be either light or dark amber in colour and 
fairly thick. The flavour is strong at first but improves with 

Sainfoin yields one of the most distinctive honeys that are ob- 
tained in Britain. This clover-like plant is usually grown only in 
chalk districts in the south and is in flower in the latter part of May 
and in June. The honey from it is deep yellow in colour, with a 
characteristic flavour and aroma. Although bright and sparkling 
in appearance the density is riot so good as that of white clover. 
Sainfoin section honey is equally distinctive. 

Honey from charlock and mustard, often obtained in agricul- 
tural districts, is notable for the rapidity with which it granulates, 
sometimes within a few days of being extracted. It is a good quality 
honey and light in colour. The flavour is inclined to be strong at 
first, even slightly pungent, but this passes off with age. 

Field or horse beans are another not uncommon source of honey 
in farming districts, the flowers being available to bees fairly early 
in the season. Honey from them has a pleasant mild flavour but 
granulates fairly quickly with a coarse grain. 

Another farm crop yielding a distinctive type of honey is buck- 
wheat. However, it is only grown to a limited extent and in certain 
districts, usually as a catch crop. Honey from the flowers of buck- 
wheat is always dark with a strong flavour and is not generally 
liked by those accustomed to mild flavoured honey. 

Occasionally in the south of England there are instances of dan- 
delion honey being obtained in what is considered to be a fairly 
pure state. It is pale or deep yellow in colour with a strong flavour 
not appreciated by everyone. It crystallizes fairly quickly with a 
coarse grain. 

May or hawthorn is a good source of nectar in some seasons but 
not often. Honey from May blossom, when obtainable in a reason- 
ably pure form, is of very good quality. It is generally rather dark 
and very thick with a rich appetizing flavour. 

The sycamore is another tree that is sufficiently common in some 
districts to be a source of surplus honey in favourable seasons. 
Sycamore honey generally has a greenish tinge and the flavour is 



not of the best, especially when fresh. It granulates slowly with a 
coarse grain. 

Blackberry or bramble is one of the commonest of British plants 
and <\t the same time one of the most useful to the beekeeper. In 
some districts, where clover and lime are absent, beekeepers con- 
sider that what honey they may get before the heather flow is 
mainly blackberry. Honey from blackberry is dense and slow to 
granulate but the flavour is not of the best in the opinion of many. 

Another wild plant which is sometimes very prevalent, and, like 
the blackberry, not fastidious as to soil or situation, is the willow- 
herb or fireweed. Where fires have occurred or extensive areas of 
woodland been cleared it may be very prevalent for a time, 
brightening the landscape with its large pink flowers, and con- 
stituting a useful source of late season honey. The characteristic 
feature of the honey is its pale colour, often water white. It has not 
a pronounced flavour and is useful for mixing with other strong 
flavoured honey to tone it down. 

Among the imported honeys sold in Britain which may have a 
characteristic flavour due to a particular floral source are the 
following: Orange California, Syria and Palestine; Logwood 
Jamaica; Clover Canada, U.S.A. and New Zealand; Eucalyptus 
Australia; Buckwheat Russia; Thyme Hymettus, Greece and 
Syria; Lavender Syria; Rosemary Narbonne, France; Peach 
Italy; Wild Acacia Syria. In some instances these honeys are sold 
more or less as luxury lines in high-class food shops, having been 
specially imported. 



Honey that is poisonous or harmful to human beings has been 
recorded from many countries and since classical times, the earliest 
account being that given by Xenophon during the memorable re- 
treat of the Ten Thousand in the year 40 B.C., the source of the 
poisonous honey being considered to be the Pontic Rhododendron 
(R.ponlicum). The deleterious properties of poisonous honey are 
believed to be due to toxicity of some kind in the nectar itself from 
which the honey is prepared. This toxicity is of an elusive or fugi- 
tive nature and in the majority of cases disappears as the honey 
ages or ripens. Usually such honey is only harmful when in the 
raw or uncapped state and as soon as it is capped over by the bees 
it becomes safe to eat. 


3. A valued source of* nectar and in early 

VV 1 N *1" E R A G O NIT E 

The yellow flowers appear even before the crocus 


Its Inconspicuous flowers secrete nectar freely 

PLATE 4, The Winter Aconite and the Snowbcrry afford 



In the British Isles poisonous honey is almost unknown. The 
word 'almost' must be used for there are one or two instances 
where the common Politic Rhododendron may have been respon- 
sible for honey found to possess harmful properties. Normally this 
plant is not of much consequence as a source of nectar for hive 
bees but it would appear that in some seasons a certain amount of 
nectar is obtained from it. A sample of honey from Gobham, Kent, 
alleged to be from this Rhododendron, was found to possess emetic 
properties by all who sampled it (9). In another case, at Camber- 
ley, Surrey, where new comb honey was eaten for breakfast the 
sickness and symptoms experienced (giddiness, distorted vision, 
perspiration, etc.) were very similar to those recorded for Rhododen- 
dron poisoning in eastern Europe, a good account of which has 
been given by Mosolcvsky (Bee Woild, 1929, 141; 1942, 31). In this 
instance some, but not all the members of the family who had 
partaken of the honey for breakfast were affected, which suggests 
that possibly only some cells of the comb contained the poisonous 
honey. Numerous Rhododendrons and some Azaleas grew in the 
vicinity. What may be another case of poisoning in England is that 
recorded by a Nottinghamshire doctor who had known boys who 
had robbed bumble bees' nests to suffer from vomiting, purging and 
abdominal pains (Scottish Beekeeper , Feb.-March 1942). Bumblebees 
are better able to procure the nectar from Rhododendron flowers 
than are hive bees, on account of their longer tongues, and visit 
them more freely. Poisoning from Rhododendron honey is said to be 
much in evidence in some districts in the Caucasus as soon as the 
consumption of comb honey commences. It occurs to some extent 
every year and is more pronounced in dry than in wet seasons. The 
first symptoms arise some three or four hours after eating. Fatal 
cases with it occur mostly with children (Mosolevsky). 

Plants known to yield poisonous or unwholesome honey in other 
countries include the following: South Eastern Europe Rhododen- 
d? on ponticum; Japan Tripetdeia paniculata\ New Zealand Melicope 
tetnata; South Africa Euphorbia spp.\ North America Kalmia lati- 
folia, Gelscmium sempervirens and possibly species ofPieris, Andromeda 
and Leucothoe. It is interesting to observe that these plants, with but 
three exceptions, are members of the heath family (Ericaceae). 
However, fortunately for British beekeepers, not all of the heath 
family produce honey that is liable to prove unwholesome, for that 
of heather or ling and of bell heath is well beyond suspicion. 

Among the above Kalmia latifolia (Calico Bush or Mountain 
Laurel) is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental shrub in the 



British Isles, and is a large evergreen, rather like a Rhododendron, 
with clusters of white or pink flowers at the ends of the branches. 
However, it is probably nowhere sufficiently common to alarm the 
beekeeper. In regions where the plant is common in the eastern 
United States, farmers and beekeepers have been known to first 
feed honey which they look upon with suspicion to the dog. If no 
ill effects are noticed within a few hours the children and other 
members of the household arc allowed to have it (20). Species of 
Pie? is, Andromeda and Leucolhoe are also sometimes cultivated in 
Britain but not to any extent. The Japanese shrub, Tripetaleia 
patriculala, which has been cultivated at Kew, is the source of un- 
wholesome honey in mountain districts in Japan where it occurs 
in abundance. The honey is said to have a pungent taste and the 
severity of the poisoning to vary with different individuals. Re- 
covery usually takes place within several hours or a few days (Bee 
Wo? Id, 1925, 4-5). In South Africa c noors honey', obtained from 
Euphorbias, the dominant vegetation in some areas, produces a 
hot burning sensation in the mouth and throat which is increased 
rather than decreased by drinking water. Some species of Eucalyp- 
tus in Australia yield honey which many regard as unpleasantly 
strong flavoured, whereas other Eucalyptus species yield honey of 
the finest quality. 

The main sources of objectionable or ill-tasting honey in the 
British Isles are ragwort and privet. The honey from both these 
plants will spoil other honey if it becomes mixed with it to any 
extent. Fortunately neither is very prevalent in most districts and 
they arc not usually considered to be a serious nuisance. Both 
flower fairly late in the season, the main flowering often taking 
place after the honey crop has been removed, in which case their 
presence is welcomed by the beekeeper as affording a useful late 
source of nectar and food for the bees themselves. There is nothing 
to suggest that the bees find the honey in any way objectionable. 

Ragwort honey is a deep yellow in colour and possesses a strong 
flavour and aroma, somewhat nauseous in fact. This weed is most 
common on poor and neglected pastures but may be found in all 
sorts of situations and be much more prevalent in some years than 
in others. It is very common on the Breckland. Ragwort withstands 
drought much better than clover and in dry summers when clover 
fails or is poor as a nectar source, bees are prone to work ragwort 
more intensively and ragwort honey is more noticeable. 

Privet is perhaps more the concern of the urban than the rural 
beekeeper. Overgrown or neglected privet hedges produce an 


abundance of blossom rich in nectar. Bees are quick to make use 
of it but usually the quantity available is not sufficient to affect the 
main crop honey. Privet honey is dark in colour, fairly thick and 
distinctly bitter in taste, quite uneatable in the opinion of many. 
It is this bitterness which is liable to spoil good honey. 

The fact that bees do themselves suffer ill effects or poisoning 
from the nectar of certain plants is well established. One of the 
most outstanding examples is the 'Buckeye poisoning' which is 
troublesome to beekeepers in the southern United States and is 
due to the nectar collected from Buckeye blossoms, trees or shrubs 
very similar and closely related to the common horse-chestnut. In 
Buckeye poisoning it is the brood or young bees rather than the 
adult bees that are affected. Loco weed (Astragalus spp.) is also held 
responsible for the poisoning of bees (adult bees) in North America. 
In some European countries Conifer honcydew is believed to be a 
cause or one of the causes of bee paralysis. Honeydew from limes 
has also been shown by experiment to be harmful to bees but it is 
not known to what extent it may poison bees under natural con- 
ditions. Honeydew is present on limes in Britain in most seasons, 
particularly in hot dry summers, but bees do not always collect it. 

The nectar of some of the late flowering limes appears to be 
inimical to bees, at least in sonic seasons. It is a common sight to 
see dead or dying bees, mainly bumble bees, underneath trees of 
Tilia petiolaris and T.orbicularis when they are in flower. The degree 
of poisoning varies from year to year. In some seasons the number 
of dead or dying bees is very large, even to the extent of subse- 
quently enriching the ground as the following observation indi- 
cates: 'In 1908 the bodies of innumerable bees, poisoned by the 
flowers of T.petiolaris at Tortworth, had so much manured the 
ground under its outer branches, that a very green ring of turf was 
visible in the autumn following, and was noticed by the Earl of 
Ducie to be even more conspicuous in 1909' (Trees and Shrubs of 
Great Britain, Elwes and Henry). The writer has found that bees, 
both bumble and hive bees, picked up from the ground under 
these trees, frequently recover. However, while in this stupefied 
condition they are doubtless easy prey to various natural enemies 
as the mutilated carcasses of many bees suggest possibly the work 
of tits. 

It is quite possible that other plants in the country visited by 
bees may have a similar if less pronounced effect, but little or 
nothing is at present known in regard to this. There are indications 
that poppies may also have some sort of stupefying effect on bees. 




Pollen is of vital importance to the honey bee and so to the 
beekeeper, for it is the only source of nitrogenous food of bee 
larvae, the amount of protein in ordinary honey being negligible, 
usually about '2 per cent. Without it they cannot grow and de- 
velop. The absence of pollen would therefore soon lead to the 
extinction of the colony. 

Fortunately in the British Isles there is usually adequate pollen 
available from wild or natural sources during the breeding months 
of the year. This is not the case in many other countries, such as 
parts of Australia and the southern United States, where acute 
pollen shortages occur at certain periods of the year when bees are 
normally active and breeding. Such dearth periods for pollen often 
constitute a serious and difficult problem for beekeepers in those 

Every district or locality has its own pollen cycle for the year and 
this remains much the same year after year, although some seasons 
commence early and others late. The pollen cycle for most British 
beekeepers commences in early spring with such plants as colts- 
foot, hazel, crocus, gorse, willow, etc. Then follow other well- 
known pollen sources like the dandelion, tree fruits, hawthorn, and 
horse-chestnut, along with innumerable other spring and summer 
flowers. These are succeeded by the clovers, limes and a host of 
wild and cultivated late summer plants. The pollen cycle termin- 
ates with such subjects as heather, thistles, ivy and in the case <af 
urban beekeepers autumn garden flowers such as Michaelmas 
daisies, golden rod, sunflowers, etc. In the British Isles the areas 
most likely to suffer from pollen shortage in the early part of the 
year are the open, flat districts where there is little or no woodland 
and streams harbouring willows are few and far between. Gorse 
is a useful standby in many districts, notably heath areas, especially 
as it is in flower more or less throughout the year. 

The total quantity of pollen carried into the average hive in a 
season is now known to be very large, probably much larger than 
is generally supposed. It has been calculated that about ten aver- 
age bee loads of pollen are necessary to produce one worker bee 
and that on an average one pound of pollen rears 4,540 bees, 
which works out at about 44 Ib. of pollen for an average colony's 
breeding requirements in a season. As much as 71 Ib. of pollen has 
been obtained from a single colony in a season by means of pollen 



traps. (The Role of Pollen in the Economy of the Hive by E. Todd and 
R. K. Bishop, U.S. Bureau of Entomology, 1941.) 

Bees may visit flowers for the express purpose of collecting pollen 
or, as more generally happens, pollen is collected as a side-line 
during the collection of nectar, for pollen sticks readily to the hairy 
body of the bee. The manner in which a bee uses its legs for clean- 
ing or partially cleaning the different parts of its body of pollen 
and packs it into the pollen baskets of the hind legs, generally 
while in flight, is well described in several of the standard works on 

When visiting flowers for pollen the method of obtaining it 
varies with different flowers, according to their structure. In the 
open type of flower like the apple, hawthorn or blackberry the bee 
draws the anthers towards it with its forelegs as it runs rapidly 
over the flower, sometimes biting the anthers with its mandibles, 
and removes the pollen that adheres to its body to the pollen 
baskets at intervals. In dealing with the flowers of a catkin such as 
hazel or willow, the bee may run some distance up the catkin, then 
fly away a short distance to pack the pollen, returning to repeat the 
process. Sometimes it does not even alight on the catkin but brushes 
the anthers while suspended in flight in the air. When working the 
tubular type of flower as in many bulbous plants and in the mint 
family, or the closed type of flower as in the clovers, the pollen 
adheres mainly to the mouth parts or forelegs of the bee and is 
removed and packed into the pollen baskets as the bee flies from 
flower to flower (18). 

Most plants yield pollen throughout the day under favourable 
weather conditions, but there are some, such as many roses, 
grasses and maize or sweet corn, that yield pollen only in the 
morning, the anthers ceasing to dehisce by midday. 

The chemical composition of pollen from different plants is 
known to vary considerably. Some pollens like those of sainfoin 
and the dandelion are much more oily than others as anyone who 
has examined pollens microscopically will know. There is a wide 
range of variation in oil and fat content of different pollens, as well 
as in other constituents such as protein, starch or carbohydrate, 
vitamins and mineral matter (18). 

It is well known by beekeepers that bees may show a marked 
preference for one kind of pollen over another which may be 
equally abundant and equally easily obtained. To what extent this 
may be correlated with the chemical composition and the believed 
nutritive value has yet to be ascertained, at least with the great 



majority of plants. As bee food it is the quantity or percentage of 
digestible albumen or protein in the pollen that matters. This was 
found by one investigator to vary from 10 per cent in the case of 
fir to 46 per cent (dry weight) in the case of hazel. Furthermore it 
decreased with age, that of hazel becoming 18 per cent after one 
year and 14 per cent after two years (Bee World, November 1940). 
This shows that pollen collected and stored dry to be subsequently 
fed to bees, as can easily be done, is likely to be of little use, for it 
will have lost much of its food value. The vitamin value of pollen 
also diminishes on dry storage. When more is known of the nutri- 
tive value of different pollens for bees it should be possible to state 
with more certainty which plants are most worth while growing 
by beekeepers as early sources of pollen. 

Some kinds of pollen, or pollen under certain conditions, may be 
harmful to bees. That of buttercups (Ranunculus) is known to cause 
a type of poisoning in some countries (see Buttercup). Harmful re- 
sults may also arise from the collection of pollen that has been 

The predominating colour of pollen is yellow or cream, in 
numerous different shades, but many other colours are to be found. 
The colour of the pollen in the bee's pollen baskets, as it is carried 
into the hive, is invariably a source of interest to beekeepers. Those 
with hives near horse-chestnuts cannot fail to notice the brick-red 
pollen loads that are so conspicuous when these trees are in flower. 
Other plants with unusually coloured pollen or which give rise to 
unusually coloured pollen loads include : meadowsweet ; loosestrife 
(green or greenish); poppy (black or purplish); heather (slate 
grey) ; phacelia and scilla (blue) ; sainfoin (yellowish brown) ; wil- 
low-herb (bluish green) ; sheep's scabious (mauve) ; blackberry and 
raspberry (white); and purple dead nettle (bright orange). 

There are many conflicting descriptions of the colour of different 
pollens to be found in bee literature. This is probably due to the 
fact that the colour or shade of a pollen may vary with age and its 
appearance in the bee's pollen baskets after it has been moistened 
with nectar or honey and patted down may differ from its colour 
in the fresh state as it appears dry on the newly opened anther of 
the flower. Whether viewed in a thin layer or small quantities is 
also important, as is the background. When examined microsco- 
pically the use of reflected or transmitted light, as well as the 
source of light, may influence colour. Furthermore, it is necessary 
to bear in mind that different persons do not always see colours 
alike. The use of standard colour charts as now often used in 



describing the colours of flowers and in scientific work generally, 
should afford the best means of describing or recording pollen 
colour. A glaring case of inaccuracy with regard to pollen colour 
is to be found in a well-known English bee book where the pollen 
of the pear is described as red, the writer having obviously mis- 
taken the colour of the anther itself for that of the pollen. 

Pollen may be responsible for a characteristic colour in beeswax 
and in the actual honey comb and cappings. When wax is first 
secreted as small scales on the abdomen of the bee it is invariably 
colourless, whatever the source of food of the bee. It is afterwards, 
when the scales are manipulated and made into comb by the bees 
and with the passing of time and the virgin comb being worked 
over or polished by young bees, that a characteristic colour may 
develop. This is believed to be mainly due to the wax absorbing 
colouring matter from the pollen that bees are bringing into the 
hive at the time. Comb made from old wax is darker in colour than 
virgin wax. 

Many pollens are rich in oil and wax soluble substances, usually 
of some shade of yellow or orange. Even if the pollen is not in 
direct contact with the comb, as in honey supers, the colouring 
matter may reach it by way of the bees' feet, legs and body and 
by adhering to particles of propolis which stick to the bees' feet. 
The bright yellow of wax and comb produced when sainfoin is 
worked is familiar to many beekeepers, also the staining of the 
comb frames and woodwork of the hive that takes place with it. 
It has been shown by experiment that while some pollens release 
th&r colouring matter very freely to wax others do not do so at 
all (Bee World, 1935, 117). Imported beeswax shows a much wider 
range of colour than that produced in the British Isles, reddish, 
grey, or greenish shades being sometimes met with. Impurities or 
adulteration may also influence the colour of crude commercial 

Pollen grains are minute and produced in great abundance in 
many flowers ,a good example being the single peony where it has 
been estimated that one flower may produce over three and a half 
million pollen grains (20). In the case of a single catkin of the birch 
as many as ten million pollen grains have been estimated to be 
present (6). Although so small and far too minute for observation 
with the naked eye, or even a hand lens, pollen grains might be 
said to constitute a world of their own in much the same way as do 
bacteria, diatoms, etc. Viewed microscopically they show endless 
differences in form and structure, in the moulding or sculpturing 



of the surface, the presence or absence of spines or other out- 
growths and in the number of pores or grooves. In some the 
surface is quite smooth, and in others striated, reticulated or cellular. 

There are pronounced differences in size among the pollen 
grains of different plants. Their diameters may vary from less than 
10 microns (i micron 1/1,000,000 metre) in the case of such 
plants as forget-me-not (Myosotis) and goat's rue (Galega) to over 
100 microns (or even 150) in the case of crocus, evening primrose, 
hollyhock, mallow, vegetable marrow and other gourd plants. 

In some plants or groups of plants the pollen grains are distinc- 
tive, for instance those of the heaths and many other members of 
the heath family (Azaleas, Rhododendrons, etc.) are in tetrads or 
groups of four, arranged like one orange placed on three other 
oranges. In the forget-me-not family (Boraginaceae) which includes 
many good bee plants like borage, bugloss, etc., they are dumb- 
bell-shaped. Quite frequently pollen grains are bound together or 
mixed up with strands of viscin, as in the willow-herb. This is a 
sticky substance and causes the pollen to cling more readily to 
insects and therefore to effect cross pollination. In contrast to those 
pollen grains of distinctive structure there are large numbers, in 
several families, that look very similar, being 30 40 microns in 
diameter, triangular with three grooves or pores. Such grains, 
when found in honey, are often extremely difficult to identify with 
any certainty. Those of the various clovers belong to this class. 

The importance of pollen grains in honey and the evidence they 
may afford with regard to the botanical source of honey and to 
adulteration is well known. For instance, if honey alleged to* be 
English is found to contain pollen grains of Eucalyptus or Citrus 
(orange) it has obviously been adulterated with imported honey, 
for these plants do not occur in Britain. A certain amount of cau- 
tion has to be exercised in assuming that the presence of a large 
amount of a particular kind of pollen means that that plant is also 
the source of the honey. It is well known that honey may be moved 
from one part of the hive to another by bees. Honey might be 
stored in cells containing a certain amount of pollen collected some 
time previously, which of course becomes mixed with the honey. 
Furthermore, the pollen of some plants, owing to the structure or 
nature of the flower, is more liable to be present in abundance than 
that from other nectar plants. Honey from lime, willow-herb and 
fuchsia for instance contains, relatively speaking, few pollen grains 
(30). This is because the anthers are so placed that the pollen falls 
away from the nectar and is less prone to contaminate it than is 








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the case with upright flowers. Heather honey may contain clover 
pollen although there may be no clover on the moors. This is 
because the supers used had previously been used for clover. There 
are also reasons why forget-me-not pollen may be unduly preva- 
lent in honey (see forget-me-not) . 

The microscopic study of pollen and the identification of pollen 
in honey is too large and involved a subject to be dealt with here. 
Those interested should consult the various textbooks that already 
exist in regard to it, e.g. those by Zander, Armbruster, Wodehouse, 
Hayes, Yate Allen, and Erdtman (see page 213). A book on pollen 
in honey by the well-known authority, Dr. A. P. Maurizio, is 
stated to be in course of preparation (6). There is no reason why 
any beekeeper who possesses or has access to a compound micro- 
scope, and who has a good knowledge of the local flora, should not 
undertake a detailed study of the pollen his bees are likely to col- 
lect. Apart from the microscope, the equipment required need not 
be extensive or elaborate (8). 


Although the honey bee is only one of many hundreds of differ- 
ent kinds of insect that may be responsible for pollination in fruit, 
farm or seed crops throughout the country, there are reasons why 
it is of special importance in this connection. Its value as a pollina- 
tor is, in fact, considered to be far greater than its value as a honey 
producer. As a pollinator its importance was demonstrated in the 
years immediately following the first world war when bee diseases 
(notably Acarine or 'Isle of Wight disease') had more or less deci- 
mated the country's bee population and fruit crops in particular 
were very poor. 

Insects which are of importance as flower visitors include wasps, 
bees, and their allies (Hymenopterd) , butterflies and moths (Lepidop- 
tera), flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera) . Only a comparatively 
few beetles visit flowers or live on a floral diet. They are mainly 
interested in the pollen which they eat on the spot. Butterflies, 
moths and flies are attracted by the nectar alone. Thus it is only 
the bees that are regular collectors of nectar and pollen. They have 
their bodies specially adapted for the collection of pollen and are 
the only insects that feed their young with it. They are wholly 
dependent on flowers for their food, both for themselves and their 

What makes the honey bee of greater value in pollination than 



other bees is the fact that it is available in fair numbers from early 
until late in the season. The whole colony hibernates and survives 
the winter whereas with bumble bees, wasps, etc., it is only the 
queen that survives the winter and it takes time for her to rear 
brood and establish a new colony in the spring. In some years, 
after severe or prolonged winters, the populations of wild bees and 
other insects may be very low in the spring. Many of the wild 
bees are active for only a short period of the year (thirty to ninety 
days), some early in the season others late, whereas hive bees are 
on the wing from early spring until late autumn. 

The constancy of the honey bee, as compared with other insects, 
in working only one kind of flower on each trip from the hive is 
well known and was even referred to by Aristotle. This increases 
its value in the pollination of economic plants. A butterfly will flit 
gaily from one kind of flower to another, but a honey bee does not 
behave in this way. It is only when there is a scarcity of bee pastur- 
age that the honey bee loses this habit of constancy. Under such 
conditions it is not uncommon to find its pollen loads consisting of 
very mixed pollen. Honey bees will, however, sometimes visit the 
flowers of closely allied plants on the same trip, even when there is 
an abundance of pollen. For instance, in the case of tree fruits they 
have been observed to visit the blossoms of plums after pears and 
cherries after apples. In working a head or bunch of flowers the 
hive bee works in a more thorough and methodical manner than 
other insects, including bumble bees. This is another of its virtues 
as a pollinator. 

The value of bumble bees as pollinators, particularly for ftviit, 
should not be overlooked. They are often very numerous, especi- 
ally when there is plenty of waste or uncultivated land, woodland 
or hedgerows in the vicinity, for these are their natural breeding 
places. They possess one advantage over the honey bee as pollina- 
tors. It is that they will visit flowers under much colder and less 
favourable weather conditions than will the honey bee essentially 
a fair weather insect that will not usually forage at all at tem- 
peratures below 55 F. Quite frequently one sees these sturdy in- 
sects going about their business in rain or in cold wind when honey 
bees arc confined to the hive. It has been shown, however, that 
flowers that have lost their petals through high winds or heavy 
rain are more likely to be visited by honey bees than bumble bees 
(Fox Wilson, R.H.S. Journal, 1926). While a colony of bumble bees 
consists of only some 50-200 individuals a hive may contain 30,000 
or more honey bees. 



The tendency in modern fruit culture is to have larger acreages 
under cultivation and fewer varieties than was the case formerly. 
The existence of fruit in large blocks generally means that the 
natural nesting places of wild bees are considerably reduced and 
their numbers become insufficient for effective pollination. It is 
then that the hive bee becomes of special value for it is the only 
pollinating insect that can be kept in a state of domestication and 
which can be artificially increased in numbers or moved from one 
place to another by man. Fruit trees in large orchards and in towns 
or built-up areas probably benefit most from the attentions of the 
hive bee for it is in such cases that the populations of wild insects 
are most likely to be insufficient. Where a few trees exist around 
homesteads on farms and in villages there are generally sufficient 
wild pollinating insects for their requirements. The same applies 
with other plants. In a state of nature a correct balance between 
flowers and insects is to be found. It is when man upsets this bal- 
ance by planting large orchards and fields that trouble starts and 
pollination difficulties arise. 

In the more important fruit-growing districts of the country it 
has long been the practice to arrange for hives to be in the orchards 
at blossoming time to ensure adequate pollination one of the first 
essentials of good crops. In the cherry orchards of Kent this is a 
regular practice with large growers, the value of sufficient honey- 
bee pollinators with this crop having been proved over and over 
again. It is sometimes noticeable in cherry orchards that trees 
nearest the hives carry much more fruit than those that are fur- 
thest away. In some cases trees on the outside of an orchard may 
carry more fruit than those inside, for they receive more attention 
from wild pollinating insects in the neighbourhood. At one time, 
in addition to local bees, skeps of bees were imported from the 
Continent, especially Holland, and placed in groups or at intervals 
in the cherry orchards. Bees are also brought from other counties 
to Kent for the purpose. 

A large firm of fruit growers and jam manufacturers in Cam- 
bridgeshire maintains an apiarist to look after its hives which are 
kept primarily for fruit pollination. In addition a number of their 
workers receive special instruction in dealing with swarms. Cider 
manufacturers and growers in the West Country make a special 
feature of apiculture in connection with their apple orchards for 
the same reason. A single apple blossom may produce from 70,000 
to 100,000 pollen grains and it has been estimated that one honey 
bee may carry 50,000 to 75,000 pollen grains on its body, only ten 



of which are necessary for the complete fertilization of an apple 
flower. Abnormal or misshapen apples are often the result of in- 
complete pollination or fertilization of an apple flower. Some 
fruits, like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, require 
several pollen grains for complete development whereas stone 
fruits, like the cherry and plum, require only a single functional 
pollen grain. 

Different varieties of tree fruits vary considerably in their ability 
to set fruit with their own pollen. Some are entirely self-sterile, 
such as 'Cox's Orange' and 'Beauty of Bath' apples, while others 
like 'Bramley's Seedling' are self-fertile and do not require pollen 
from another source. Other varieties of apple are partially self- 
fertile. The same applies to commonly cultivated varieties of pear 
and plum and to cherries. With these self-sterile varieties cross 
pollination with another variety is essential for the production of 
fruit. It has been found that even the most self-fertile varieties 
produce much heavier crops when cross pollinated. This empha- 
sizes both the need for mixed varieties in large orchards and the 
importance of the honey bee to the fruit grower. 

In commercial fruit orchards it is usually considered that one 
strong hive per acre is sufficient for trees in full bearing and in the 
case of young trees one hive for five acres. It is essential that hives 
should be fairly strong, say five to six pounds of bees and six to 
seven frames of brood. A certain number of bees is always neces- 
sary in a hive to maintain warmth, especially early in the season, 
and unless it is of fair strength there may not be sufficient surplus 
or flying bees for effective pollination. At fruit blossoming timu in 
Britain the weather is prone to be cold, wet, or windy, sometimes 
for days on end, and too unfavourable for bees to fly. In some sea- 
sons there may be relatively few bright or warm days. When such 
days do arrive, therefore, it is desirable to get as much pollination 
effected as possible. The presence of sufficient populous stocks of 
bees is the best and possibly the only means of achieving this in a 
large orchard. 

There is difference of opinion as to the best method of placing 
hives in an orchard for pollination purposes. Some favour spac- 
ing them singly at regular intervals, others prefer to place 
them in groups at wider intervals. While the former may be the 
more desirable for even and efficient pollination it sometimes in- 
volves practical difficulties and more labour in transporting and 
attending to hives. Bees should never be located more than a 
quarter of a mile from the trees they are required to pollinate for 



bees do not fly long distances from choice, especially early in the 

The amount of cross pollination in fruit crops through wind has 
been proved on many occasions to be negligible, the pollen of all 
fruit blossoms being unsuited for wind pollination. This applies not 
only to tree fruits (with the exception of the mulberry which is 
wind pollinated) but to bush and berry fruits also. The pollen 
grains of currants and gooseberries are notably sticky and adhere 
together in masses, making wind pollination quite impossible. 

There is a belief that fruit blossoms that have been pollinated 
are better able to withstand frost, should a sudden frost occur, than 
those that have not yet been pollinated. 

Although fruit crops may be small and unprofitable without 
proper pollination there are many other factors that also have a 
bearing on fruit yield, such as the health and vigour of the tree, 
pests and diseases, rainfall and climatic conditions generally. With- 
out proper pollination fruit will not set, without proper nutrition 
it will not grow. There are some abnormal or freak fruits that 
require no pollination at all, such as the navel orange, the seedless 
currant grapes and some persimmons, but these are all products 
of warmer lands. 

In Britain the role of the honey bee in pollination is probably 
more important with tree fruits than with any other class of crop. 
This is largely because the tree fruits flower early in the season, 
when the total number of pollinating insects available is very much 
lower than it is later in the year. 

J?arm crops are probably of next importance after fruit in the 
value of work done by the hive bee. Large quantities of clover and 
sainfoin are required for pastures and fodder every year, both crops 
being largely pollinated by honey bees. In the case of Alsike clover, 
the seed of which has been mainly imported from Canada in the 
past, and also in the case of white clover, the increased yields of 
seed resulting from hives in close proximity to fields has been re- 
peatedly demonstrated. In some cases yields of two and even three 
bushels of seed have been obtained by artificially increasing the 
honey bee population, where formerly only one bushel of seed per 
acre was obtained. 

The hive bee may also be an important pollinator of red clover, 
especially where bumble bees the natural pollinators of the plant 
are lacking. It usually obtains only pollen and no nectar from 
the flowers and may visit 200-300 flowers for a pollen load. In 
some European countries seed yields have been almost trebled by 

o 33 


the use of hive bees, three to five hives per acre being recommended 
by one investigator under Danish conditions. In such cases it is 
necessary that other nectar plants, particularly white clover, should 
not be available in quantity in the neighbourhood to act as a 
counter attraction. It has been found with red clover in Australia 
and elsewhere that maximum pollen collection, and therefore 
maximum pollination and seed yield, by honey bees, can be 
effected by feeding the bees liberally with sugar syrup, thereby 
inducing much brood production and a greater need for pollen. 
The pollen in the hive may also be maintained at a low level by 
periodically removing frames with pollen in order to further stimu- 
late pollen collection in the field. 

Field beans, mustard and buckwheat are other common farm 
crops that are freely pollinated by bees, all being incidentally use- 
ful nectar and pollen sources. The sunflower has attracted atten- 
tion as a possible oil seed crop in Britain and has already been 
grown on a field scale. In Russia, where it is cultivated on a vast 
scale, the honeybee is regarded as an invaluable pollinating agent 
and conducive to high yields. 

Bees are equally useful to the professional seed grower, particu- 
larly the large-scale grower of vegetable seeds. The same applies 
to the producer of flower seeds. 

In the vegetable garden or market garden and in the glass- 
house the honey bee may also fill a useful role, particularly in the 
case of the gourd plants such as marrows, pumpkins and cucum- 
bers, where separate male and female flowers exist and adequate 
pollination is essential before fruit can develop. Even in the cise 
of indoor tomatoes useful results have been obtained with bees, the 
flowers yielding pollen but no nectar. 

Throughout the country as a whole there is a very uneven dis- 
tribution of the bee population. In many large towns and in the 
suburbs of big cities there are often many small beekeepers and 
overstocking undoubtedly does take place. On the other hand in 
many country districts few hives are kept in spite of a fair abun- 
dance of clover and other useful nectar plants. It is not uncommon 
to see pastures well stocked with white clover or bird's-foot trefoil 
in flower and with few or no hive bees in attendance, even in 
bright, sunny, weather. 




The question of planting solely for bees or of providing artificial 
bee pasturage in order to increase the honey crop is one that fre- 
quently occupies the minds of beekeepers. Unfortunately it is not, 
or has not proved to be so far, an economical proposition to cultivate 
any plant on a field scale solely for bees, the cost of tillage, seed, 
weeding, etc., and the rent or value of the land, far outweighing 
the value of the increased honey harvest. Where it is possible to 
make use of the resulting crop in some other way, such as for hay 
or for seed, the increased monetary returns may make the proposi- 
tion worth while in the case of farmer beekeepers, assuming of 
course that there are not large numbers of bees belonging to other 
people in the neighbourhood. 

Among the farm or field crops grown in the British Isles, and 
known to be good nectar sources, are all the clovers (with the pos- 
sible exception of red clover), sainfoin, field beans, mustard, rape, 
and buckwheat. There are one or two other crops grown on a field 
scale, but normally of very local distribution, that afford good bee 
fodder, such as chicory, teasel, lavender and some of the culinary 
and medicinal herbs. Unfortunately with many of the clovers cut- 
ting must take place before flowering, or before flowering is com- 
pleted, if the best hay or best agricultural use is to be had from them, 
a good example being crimson clover. Buckwheat is a useful and 
easily grown crop for light soils, even the poorest, and may be 
sown at intervals to provide a long nectar flow where sufficient 
land is available. The seed is always marketable and has many 
uses, especially for poultry. Unfortunately the honey from buck- 
wheat is very dark and not of the best quality, although well liked 
by many people. 

Planting on a field scale for bees must obviously remain within 
the province of the farmer or farmer beekeeper, but the establish- 
ing of useful nectar plants in waste places falls more within the 
scope of the small-scale beekeeper or enthusiasts of the hobbyist 
class, particularly when they are in rural areas and the outskirts of 
towns and villages. Often disused gravel pits, quarries, rubbish 
heaps, dumps of various kinds, the sides of newly constructed 
roads, mounds of soil cleared from drains and ditches, etc., which 
normally become covered with a useless weedy type of vegetation 
if left to themselves, are capable of supporting useful nectar plants, 



provided they are taken in hand at the right time. In war-time this 
may even apply to disused gun sites and temporary camps. Few 
plants can equal Melilotus or sweet clover for establishing as bee 
fodder in such places. A few seeds sprinkled on any loose soil sur- 
face will grow and once established the plant comes up freely from 
seed. In fact it grows like a weed and is regarded as such in some 
countries (see Melilotus). Its long flowering season is only one of its 
many valuable characteristics. Ordinary white clover (Trifolium 
repens), with its creeping and spreading habit, is also very well 
adapted for naturalising, especially on gravelly soil. Viper's Bug- 
loss has been used in Europe, notably along some of the newer 
motor roads, for improving the nectar flow. Other easily grown 
nectar plants suitable for naturalising in most localities and situa- 
tions, and usually able to look after themselves with little or no 
attention, are catnip, motherwort, white horehound, loosestrife, 
willow-herb, and possibly borage. In shallow or stony soils where 
few other plants succeed the common blackberry or bramble will 
generally thrive and prove useful as a late season minor source of 
nectar and pollen. As a more or less all-the-year-round source of 
pollen if required gorse may be equally useful in such situations. 

A more permanent type of artificial bee forage is available in the 
form of trees and shrubs that are useful nectar sources as soon as 
they reach the flowering stage. The snowberry (Symphoricarpus) is 
probably one of the best of these for it grows well and quickly in 
almost any soil. It may not produce flowers as abundantly as do 
some bee plants but this is compensated by its long flowering 
season and the fact that the individual flowers are very rich -in 
nectar. Buckthorn has been recommended on the Continent for 
establishing along roadsides to improve bee pasturage. Some of the 
Cotoneasters might also be well suited for the purpose. The false 
acacia or Robinia is willing to grow almost anywhere but unfor- 
tunately it is too erratic as a nectar yielder in the climate of Britain. 
Willows are well suited for naturalising, especially along streams. 
They may be quickly established from large cuttings and are a 
valuable early source of pollen and nectar. The sycamore, which is 
easily established and quick growing, is well suited for waste areas, 
the margins of fields and pastures, etc., where there is room for it. 

The establishment of relatively small patches of good nectar- 
yielding plants in waste places may not of course result in an 
appreciable increase in the honey crop, and flowering may not 
coincide with the main honey flow of the district. Nevertheless, 
such plants can be of great value in assisting bees to tide over 



periods when little nectar is available from other sources and there- 
by reduce the drain on the hive's stores. Furthermore, it must be 
remembered that every drop of nectar brought into the hive, from 
whatever source, will assist in producing future foragers that will in 
their turn bring many more drops to the hive. 

The tree planting that continually takes place in parks and open 
spaces to replace old and decayed trees or in developing new dis- 
tricts and housing estates could be made to improve permanently 
the neighbourhood for beekeeping if some regard were paid to the 
nectar value of the different kinds of trees available for planting. 
Perhaps in the future this may be done, although little if any re- 
gard has been paid to it in the past. Nectar value means of course 
food value and the increased attention now paid to home-produced 
food may mean a better realization of the value to the community 
at large of trees that are good nectar yielders. So far as the nectar 
producing trees available for cultivation in Great Britain are con- 
cerned the limes undoubtedly head the list by a long way. Their 
merits and demerits are fully discussed elsewhere (see Lime). 
Other useful nectar yielders among ornamental trees are the al- 
mond, cherry plum, all the tree fruits, single-flowered cherries and 
crabs, maples, horse-chestnuts, Crataegus and Catalpa. These are 
dealt with under their respective headings in Section 3. 

The advisability of planting nectar yielding trees along the 
newer arterial roads of Britain that naturally carry very fast motor 
traffic has been criticized (Bee World, 1938, 122), and probably 
rightly so, on the grounds that it is likely to result in heavy loss of 
.tee life through contact with vehicles. What motorist has not 
noticed in the summer how dead insects collect in the front of the 
radiator and how the windscreen is sometimes sticky from the 
nectar-filled bodies of bees or other insects. Another argument is 
the risk of increasing accidents by attracting large numbers of bees 
on to the major highways. It is an easy matter for a bee to get into 
the muffler of a fast moving motor cyclist or into a saloon car, and 
be responsible for a sting at an unfortunate moment. 

Opinions may differ regarding the force of these arguments, but 
all will agree it is a pity not to make use of the miles and miles of 
existing and future arterial roads for improving the available bee 
forage, especially as this could be done in complete accordance 
with the general policy of road beautification. On those arterial 
roads where the trees could be separated from the highway itself 
by cycle tracks and sidewalks or the trees placed an equivalent 
distance from the carriage-way, this may be found sufficient to 



keep most of the foraging bees away from the traffic. On minor 
roads the objections would hardly apply. 

In many parts of Britain there is a dearth of nectar-yielding 
flowers in the first two or three weeks of June. Fruit blossom (apple, 
cherry, pear and plum) is a valuable source of early nectar in most 
areas, tree fruits being so extensively grown in orchards and gar- 
dens up and down the country. The wild cherries might be included 
with them. When these cease flowering other common trees may 
take their place as nectar yielders, such as sycamore, holly, horse- 
chestnut and hawthorn. When these have finished flowering, which 
is about the last week in May in many districts, there is little else 
available for bees until white clover or limes are out. Clover may 
be in flower by mid-June or the third week of the month, but pro- 
duces little nectar at first. It is usually the last week in June or 
early July before the blossoms of the common lime are fully out. 

This dearth period or June gap' as it has been termed, in the 
nectar flow, is liable to be harmful to the beekeeper. The break in 
the honey flow causes the bees, busy with brood rearing at this 
time, to draw heavily on the stores procured earlier in the season. 
This means of course a reduced final honey yield for the beekeeper 
himself. The break may also be an incentive to swarming if it is 
pronounced. The presence of minor nectar sources from wild or 
garden plants or certain weeds may alter the severity of the dearth 
in some districts. 

Two farm crops that help to bridge this gap and which are 
usually in flower in early June, are sainfoin and crimson clover or 
'trifolium' (see Clover). Both are good nectar sources. Unfortuv* 
ately neither of these forage plants is extensively grown. Sainfoin 
is mainly limited to chalk districts, while crimson clover, which is 
an annual and usually autumn sown, is only hardy in the southern 
part of the country. 

Various garden plants, some of them good nectar yielders, may 
be in flower at this time, although such plants are unlikely to be 
present in quantity in any district. Several annuals favoured by 
bees may be in flower at about this period if sown at the appro- 
priate time. Among perennials, the common catmint is in full 
flower at this period and is always amazingly popular with bees 
for nectar. The plant has the advantage of being easy to grow and 
to propagate and thrives in almost any soil. It also has a long 
flowering season. Any beekeeper wishing or able to plant against 
the June gap' might well consider the merits of this plant, and 
anyone able to put down an acre or two as bee forage should be in 


a position to make interesting observations, particularly as to the 
nature of the honey and the length and intensity of the flow, etc. 
Among decorative trees and shrubs that are in flower in the Kew 
area during this early June dearth period, and which are visited by 
hive bees for nectar, the writer has observed the following: 


Aesculus indica, Indian Horse-chestnut (India). 
Cornus alba, Cornel (N. Asia). 
Cornus pubescent, Cornel (W. North America). 
Ptelea trifoliata, Hop Tree (Canada). 
Rhamnus cathartica, Buckthorn (native). 
Rhamnus frangula, Alder Buckthorn (native). 
Rhamnus purshiana, Cascara (W. North America). 
Sorbus intermedia, Swedish Whitebeam (Europe). 


Berberis spp., Barberries (several). 
Buddleia globosa, Yellow Buddleia (Peru). 
Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster (China). 
Cotoneaster microphylla, Cotoneaster (Himalaya) . 
Cotoneaster spp., Cotoneaster, various. 
Erica mediterranea, Tree Heath (Spain) . 
Escallonia langleyensis, Escallonia (garden hybrid). 
Lonicera spp., Shrubby Honeysuckles. 
Pyracantha coccinea, Pyracantha (Asia Minor). 
fSymphoricarpus albus, Snowberry (North America). 


Many of the most showy garden flowers are of no use whatsoever 
to the honey bee, providing no nectar and little or no pollen. This 
applies to some of the best roses, chrysanthemums and dahlias, etc., 
and to numerous other plants that have been c made double* by 
cultivation. It is thus possible to visualise a district gay with 
flowers, such as one where certain cut flowers are grown on a large 
scale, but one in which the honey bee would starve. Fortunately 
Nature does not work this way and in most areas there are suffi- 
cient nectariferous plants to enable the honey bee to earn a living 
if not to yield surplus honey for mankind. 

Another large group of garden plants which are useless to the 
honey bee are those in which the nectar is so deep seated as to be 



out of reach, although available to long-tongued insects like bumble 
bees and butterflies. Sometimes such plants may be useful for 
pollen or if bumble bees have punctured the bases of the flowers 
some nectar may be obtainable by this means. It is surprising how 
often this occurs. 

On the other hand there arc many garden subjects which are 
known to be first-class bee plants. Although these can never com- 
pare with wild or crop plants in regard to numbers, they may 
prove very useful to the beekeeper, especially when they flower at 
a time when nectar or pollen from other sources is scarce. 

Generally speaking the most useful garden plants are those that 
flower very early in the year, supplying nectar or pollen at a time 
when they are very scarce both inside and outside the hive, or else 
those that flower in the autumn. These furnish food for winter use. 


A number of garden annuals are useful nectar and pollen plants. 
They are for the most part easily raised and provide an abundance 
of bloom while they last. The flowering period can often be much 
extended by successional sowing and early flowering obtained in 
the case of the more hardy kinds by autumn sowing. No collection 
of bee plants should be without a selection of them. 

Most garden annuals are not happy unless sown in full sunshine. 
The beekeeper needs to remember also that plants in shade are 
often ignored by bees while the same kind of plant a few yards 
away but in sunshine may be freely visited. The following annuals 
are among those that are attractive to honey bees, in a few casce 
for pollen only. 

Alyssum, Balsam (Impatient Roylei) , Calendula, Candytuft, China 
Aster, Cornflower, Clarkia, Collinsia, Convolvulus, Coreopsis, 
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), Cosmos, Eschscholtzia, French Mari- 
gold, Gaillardia, Gilia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Lavatera, Limnan- 
thes, Linum, Malope, Mallow, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Nemo- 
phila, Nigella, Perezia multiflora, Phacelia, Pheasant's Eye (Adonis), 
mainly pollen, Poppy, various kinds for pollen only, Saponaria, 
Scabious, Senecio, Statice, Sweet Sultan, Sunflower, Viscaria, 


Many garden perennials are good bee plants. As a group peren- 
nials take first place in general popularity with garden lovers on 
account of the little attention they require when once established. 



The following are some of those that are always attractive to 
bees. They are dealt with individually under their respective head- 
ings in Section 3. Achillea, Alyssum, Anchusa, Arabis, Aubrietia, 
Campanula, Canterbury Bells, Catmint, Centaurea, Cynoglossum, 
Epilobium, Erigeron, Eupatorium, Fuchsia, Geranium, Geum, 
Golden Rod, Gypsophila, Hedysarum, Helenium, Hollyhock, 
Horehound, Hyssop, Lavatera, Lavender, Lythrum, Mallow, Mar- 
joram, Michaelmas Daisy, Myosotis, Peony (single), Rudbeckia, 
Salvia superba, Scabious, Sidalcea, Statice, Thrift, Thyme, Ver- 


Among the early spring flowers so useful in supplying fresh 
pollen and perhaps a little nectar to the hive after the long winter 
months, certain bulbous and tuberous plants come well to the fore. 
Several occur wild in fields and meadows, such as the snowdrop, 
snowflake and daffodil, while many others are grown in gardens. 

The hardy bulbous plants whose flowers are known to be visited 
by bees include the following: Camassia (Quamash), C. esculenta 
and C. Cusuckii especially mainly summer flowering; Chionodoxa 
(Glory of the Snow); Colchicum (Autumn Crocus) flowers in the 
autumn; Crocus; Eranthis (Winter Aconite); Fritillaria including 
F. imperialis (Crown Lily) and F. meleagris (Snake's Head); Galon- 
thus (Snowdrop); Hyacinthus (Garden Hyacinths); Ixia (in mild 
areas); Leucojum (Snowflake); Muscari (Grape Hyacinth); Narcissus 
(Daffodils and Jonquils) ; Scilla\ Trillium (Wood Lily); Tulip (oc- 
asionally for pollen) . 

None of the above are likely to be sufficiently abundant to affect 
the honey yield. However, many are easily naturalised, will grow 
well in shrubberies, under trees, or on the edges of lawns, requiring 
little attention from one year to another and not competing with 
other garden plants, but affording their owner an opportunity of 
watching the bees at work. 


A number of everyday flowering and decorative shrubs are useful 
sources of nectar to the hive bee. Examples are the Cotoneasters, 
Snowberry (Symphoricarpus] , Yellow Buddleia (B.globosd), Pyracan- 
tha, Escallonia, Privet, Buckthorn, Barberries, Elsholtzia, Shrubby 
Honeysuckles, Flowering Currants, Heaths, Perovskia, Callicarpa, 
Aralia, Tamarisk and Fuchsia, the last mentioned being suited to 
the milder parts of the country only. 

4 1 


The flowers of a number of everyday vegetables are attractive to 
bees for nectar and pollen. Some of these vegetables are normally 
harvested before they reach the flowering stage, such as radishes, 
turnips, Swedes, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and other Brassicas, 
onions, leeks, chives, carrots, parsnips, chicory and endive. Quite 
often, however, they are to be seen in flower, through neglect or 
lack of time on the part of the owner, or if grown for seed. Where 
seed production on a large scale takes place they may be of appre- 
ciable honey value. Other vegetables, which flower during their 
normal life span in the vegetable garden, and which attract bees 
are asparagus, marrows, pumpkins, cucumbers or other gourds 
and broadbeans. The tassels of sweet corn are worked for pollen 
in some countries but are of doubtful value in Britain. 


Many culinary and medicinal herbs are good nectar plants and 
afford useful bee forage when grown in large plots in market gar- 
dens or on a field scale and allowed to reach the flowering stage. 
Unfortunately for the beekeeper they are often cut or harvested 
before flowering takes place as is the case with mint and sage. 

Nearly all the herbs of value to the beekeeper for nectar are 
members of the mint family (Labiatae) and are of an aromatic 
nature. These include: mint, sage, thyme, marjoram, hyssop, sav- 
oury and basil. Lavender, rosemary, horehound and catnip might 
also be added (see Section 3). 


A bee garden or plot devoted entirely to plants that are attrac- 
tive to bees can be the source of much pleasure to any beekeeper 
interested in plants and gardening, who has the necessary ground 
or garden space at his disposal. The general lay-out of such a gar- 
den, and whether it is of the formal or informal type, depends of 
course upon the inclinations of the beekeeper and the size and sur- 
roundings of the ground available. Two important points to be 
kept in mind are that such a garden should be in full sunlight and 
not shaded by trees or buildings and that the plants should be 
grown in bold groups or patches. If plants are grown singly or only 
in twos and threes they often fail to attract bees even though they 
be species known to be attractive to them. Flowers in shade are 
often neglected by bees, while those of the same kind of plant in 



sunlight may be freely worked. Apart from this, the majority of 
bee plants grow best in full sun in the climate of Britain. It is also 
advisable not to place plants in very close proximity to hives for 
often the inmates of these hives ignore such plants. This may be 
because the bees realize by instinct that plants in the immediate 
neighbourhood of their hives are liable to be contaminated from 
their own cleansing flights. In just the same way they generally 
refuse to take water from troughs placed near the hives. 

Many good bee plants are highly decorative and some are suit- 
able for cut-flowers for the house providing always of course that 
cutting is done with discretion. By a judicious selection of subjects 
it is possible to have bee plants in flower from early spring until 
the frosts arrive. A bee garden also enables one to observe bee 
behaviour among plants of entirely different flower structure. 

Most bee plants are fairly accommodating as to soil and will do 
well in any average garden soil. There are a few, however, that 
require special consideration in this respect. The heaths and most 
of the heath family (Ericaceae) require lime-free soils with an abun- 
dance of peaty or organic matter. On the other hand sainfoin 
needs an abundance of lime. Most of the clovers in fact and many 
Labiates, such as thyme and lavender, thrive best with a fair 
amount of lime present. Beds with specially treated or made up 
soil can often be arranged for such plants. 

Among the early spring-flowering plants that are so eagerly 
sought for pollen, crocuses and the winter aconite should always 
be included. Snowdrops, Siberian Squill and other bulbs are also 
*#eful. Annuals offer a very wide choice, some of the best for a bee 
garden being Mignonette, Sweet Alyssum, Phacelia, Limnanthes, 
Borage and Buckwheat. An equally large range exists among 
perennials, one of the best garden perennials being Salvia superba, 
a bed of which will flower for a long time and swarm with bees 
whenever weather is suitable. Where an edging is required the 
common catmint has few equals and also has a long flowering 
period. Chives are also useful and may be used for culinary pur- 
poses as well. 

A few shrubs are desirable in a bee garden, where there is 
sufficient room, and require little attention once established. They 
may often be well placed as a background. Hazels and shrubby 
willows are useful for early spring where space allows, so also are 
some of the shrubby honeysuckles, especially Lonicera Standishii, 
worked for nectar and pollen. Later in the year Cotoneaster horizontalis 
never fails to attract (as do other shrubs of this genus) and may be 



effectively trained to cover walls or wooden fences. The yellow 
Buddleia (B. globosa) from Chile is another early summer favourite 
and easily grown. If the locality is one well suited for heaths these 
may be selected to give flowers more or less throughout the year. 
All the single-flowered hardy heaths with short corollas or flower 
tubes appear to be good bee plants. Among the late flowering 
shrubs (Perovskia atriplicifolia y and exceedingly decorative Afghan 
shrub bearing masses of mauve flowers, and Elsholtzia Stauntonii 
(heathermint) from China are well worth consideration. 

There are of course many other plants available for selection, 
and whatever the size of the bee garden it should be possible to 
change some of the plants from time to time in order to add variety 
and interest. Apart from the plants already mentioned various 
herbs and aromatic plants are well worth consideration, such as 
lavender, rosemary, mint, pennyroyal, sage, thyme, marjoram, 
savory, hyssop, basil, catnip and horehound. Other plants are 
purple loosestrife, figwort, willowherb, mallow, motherwort, gipsy- 
wort and catnip all wild or native species. Single poppies of all 
kinds are attractive for pollen. Among the taller growing plants 
are melilotus or sweet clover, teazle, echinops, rudbeckias, sun- 
flowers and hollyhocks. 


Wind-breaks or hedges are very desirable for the protection of 
apiaries, particularly in situations exposed to strong winds. In win- 
ter they do much to lessen mortality among bees and to result^*" 
stronger stocks in the spring. In summer they enable heavily laden, 
homecoming bees to reach their hive entrance and alight without 
difficulty. They also afford greater comfort when manipulating in 
keeping wind off frames and bees, especially early in the season. 

While high brick or stone walls may afford the best protection, 
they are generally out of the question for obvious reasons and the 
beekeeper looks to vegetation, the cheapest of all wind-breaks, to 
fill the breach. Evergreen shrubs and hedges are preferable to those 
that cast their leaves and likely to be far more effective in the 
winter months when they are mainly needed. 

Among the well-known hedge plants holly makes the best ever- 
green hedge under English conditions but is likely to be ruled out 
by most beekeepers owing to its very slow growth. In some cases, 
however, it is possible to plant a quick-growing temporary hedge 
some feet away from the holly hedge, to be removed when the 



latter has made sufficient growth. The common cherry laurel 
makes a very effective evergreen hedge or screen and is of fairly 
rapid growth and easy to grow in nearly all soils, including poor 
acid, sandy soils. As a hedge it is best grown with a good wide base 
and can be tapered towards the top. This prevents the base from 
becoming scraggy and bare of leaves. It should never be clipped 
for this mutilates the large leaves but the excess growth cut out 
with secateurs or a knife. As an informal screen and left to itself it 
is likely to remain effective for many years. However, where an 
informal or unpruned screen is desired and there is ample space 
the common Pontic Rhododendron (R. ponticum) is hard to beat. 
Furthermore, plants are easily obtained and cheap, if they have to 
be purchased, but they are often available in quantity in woods. 
Its rate of growth is much less than that of the laurel, being about 
a foot a year, and it does not succeed on such a wide range of soils, 
being averse to heavy clay. Its spreading branches maintain a good 
cover right down to the ground. This is what the beekeeper wants 
for his hives are at ground level. Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) is 
another evergreen of somewhat similar habit and at the same time 
useful for early pollen, but again of very slow growth. 

When a hedge is required primarily as a barrier to keep out 
intruders or livestock few plants can equal the common hawthorn 
or May (often called 'quick'), when properly grown and managed. 
Although without leaves in winter close clipping induces a dense 
mass of woody shoots and this offers fair resistance to wind. Among 
the many good points that have made it the premier utility hedge 
~*the country for centuries, in spite of the introduction of numer- 
ous potential hedge plants from other countries, are its rapid rate 
of growth, ability to stand close clipping, hardiness and suitability 
for most soils. The fact that it is easily raised from seed, or is cheap 
to buy as seedlings and transplants well, are other virtues. 

Several evergreen barberries make first-class hedges and are also 
effective barriers, the best known being Berberis stenophylla and B. 
darwinii. Regular pruning each year with these plants, immedi- 
ately after flowering, helps to prevent the base from becoming 
bare. Pyracantha may also be used where a prickly hedge is re- 
quired, both the common sort (Pyracantha coccinea var. lalandii) and 
P.rogersiana from Yunnan, being suitable. The latter quickly makes 
a hedge six feet high. Pyracantha has the drawback of transplant- 
ing badly, even when quite young. Another prickly but perhaps 
rather indifferent hedge, although well suited for poor sandy soils 
of the heathland type, is gorse. It withstands severe winds remark- 



ably well and may be close clipped. Seed is generally sown direct 
for it transplants badly. It will be noted that all these barrier plants 
happen to bear flowers that are of nectar or pollen value to the 
hive bee. 

Other evergreen hedge plants whose flowers are visited by the 
honey bee for nectar are Cotoneaster, Escallonia and Tamarisk. 
The last mentioned is invaluable in exposed situations near the sea 
and withstands salt laden winds as few other plants will do. It may 
either be grown naturally as a shelter belt or trimmed as a hedge. 
In the latter case it should be clipped in the spring so as not to 
interfere with flowering. Most Cotoneasters are first-class nectar 
plants and some make good hedges. The best known is Cotoneaster 
simonii, which may be grown as a hedge up to six feet and is well 
suited where a hedge without great depth is required, as in small 
gardens. On the other hand, where there is space for ample depth 
in the hedge, to add to effectiveness as a screen, some of the Escal- 
lonias are well adapted, particularly in the milder parts of the 
country as in the south and west coasts. There they are much 
favoured with their dark, glossy leaves and free flowering habit. 
One of the best as well as one of the hardiest is E.langleyensis (see 

The virtues and drawbacks of privet as a hedge are familiar to 
most people. Its quick growth may commend it to some and it is 
usually semi-evergreen but most beekeepers are too busy for the 
constant clipping required to keep it in good shape. If left to its 
own devices it soon assumes tree form, becoming thin at the base 
and flowering freely every year. The flowers are a good source* ~ r 
nectar but honey from privet has a bad reputation and may spoil 
other honey. 

The common Beech makes a good hedge and wind-break and 
succeeds on chalk soils. It stands close trimming while the reten- 
tion of the dead leaves in winter adds to its attraction and shelter 
value. The purple Beech may be used in the same way. 

Yew also grows well on chalk, but like holly and box, is probably 
too slow growing to interest the beekeeper and is prone to attack 
by scale insects. Box has the advantage of succeeding in partial 
shade but is liable to become bare at the base. 

Some Conifers are useful as quick growing wind-breaks but gen- 
erally become open at the base after some years. Lawson's Cypress 
(Cupressus lawsoniana) and its many varieties is perhaps the most 
generally useful. The Monterey Cypress (C.macrocarpa) makes a 
good informal screen in the milder maritime districts. Arbor Vitae 


( Thuya occidentalis) thrives on good soils but is not happy on poor 

Frequently the beekeeper requires a quick growing screen that 
will be effective very early or in the same year in which it is 
planted. This may apply in the case of temporary out-apiaries or 
where hives are situated near a footpath or road and it is desired 
to divert the line of flight of the bees to a height of several feet soon 
after leaving the hive so as to avoid the possibility of collision with 
passers-by! The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuber osus) is some- 
times used with good effect in this way. Its rapid rate of growth 
enables it to attain a height of several feet quite early in the season 
and no plant could be less exacting in its requirements. It also has 
its uses in providing summer shade for hives that are completely 
exposed to the sun, particularly hives of the single wall or 'National' 
type. A few tubers planted on the south or south-west side of a hive 
result in effective midday and afternoon shade during the hotter 
months of the year. Another quick growing summer screen is 
Polygonum sachalinense, which sends up its tall leafy stems year after 
year when once established. The climbing Polygonum (P.baldschu- 
anicum) is also useful given the necessary support. The more vigor- 
ous cultivated blackberries, such as 'Himalaya Giant' and 'John 
Innes' may be used in similar fashion, but should not be too near 
hives for the thorns on their spreading branches will only too 
readily tear open a bee veil, perhaps at an awkward moment. 

The following suggestion for an apiary hedge which appeared in 
a Dutch beekeeping journal (see Bee World, 1931, 65) may com- 
jaend itself to some beekeepers. 'In spring plant out strong willow 
mttings one yard apart. If the ground be moist enough they will 
grow. In autumn tie them together so as to form a flat hedge. Next 
spring between every two willows plant a bramble, preferably a 
large fruiting kind, and wind and tie the stems along the hedge. 
In a few years one has a splendid wind-screen, needing no attention 
save pruning. Birds nest in it freely preferring it to nest boxes and 
it is a joy to the bees in both spring and summer. March is the best 
season for planting willows' (see Willow). 


As honeydew and propolis are only too familiar to all beekeepers 
and are derived from plants a few words in regard to them and 
their botanical sources may not be out of place. 

Honeydew is common in some seasons, particularly during hot 



dry summers, and will spoil the quality of honey if present in any 
quantity. Various insects feed by sucking the sap or juices of plants 
and excrete a sugary liquid which is little other than a modified 
form of plant sap. Bees will collect and store this fluid or honey- 
dew, but usually only if ordinary or floral nectar is scarce. The 
insects responsible include plant lice or aphids, scale insects and 
leaf hoppers. They are sometimes very numerous and breed with 
great rapidity. When exuded the liquid is colourless and sweet and 
quite wholesome, any objection to it being quite ill founded. On 
drying, however, it becomes sticky, being of a gummy nature, and 
usually infected with fungi or 'sooty moulds' giving it a black or 
dark coloured appearance. It is these moulds that darken the 
honeydew or honey with which it becomes mixed. 

Most of the common trees of Britain may harbour insects of this 
kind and so produce honeydew. It is only in certain seasons that it 
is prevalent. These trees include the lime (the worst offender), oak, 
sycamore, beech, elm, ash, chestnut, hawthorn, fruit trees and 
various Conifers. A number of cultivated or garden plants may 
also be affected. 

Where limes are plentiful the honey may be completely spoiled 
in some seasons, especially section honey. Fortunately this does not 
often occur. When honeydew has been collected in quantity honey 
is dark or olive-green in colour and has a taste suggestive of treacle. 
It does not granulate. This is due to the large percentage of dextrin 
or gum present, sometimes as much as 10 per cent as compared 
with less than i per cent in most ordinary honey. This high per- 
centage of gum makes it a bad food for wintering bees as tfie 
gummy matter is prone to clog the intestine if frequent cleansing 
flights are not possible. Although most honeydew honeys are con- 
sidered to be safe for spring stimulation the honeydew from limes 
is now considered to be inherently harmful to bees. 

In hot dry seasons when bees are collecting honeydew, other 
sources of nectar being scarce or dried up, they are sometimes in- 
clined to be cross. The reason put forward for this (20) is that the 
honeydew gets too hard and sticky during the heat of the day for 
the bees to collect but is softened by dew at night. It is thus avail- 
able in the morning but not later in the day and the sudden 
cessation accounts for the bad temper. 

Some races of bees are more prone to collect honeydew than 
others and this explains why some hives in an apiary of mixed 
bees may be found to have much honeydew but not the others. 

Honeydew honey is much more prevalent in certain other coun- 


tries than it is in Britain. In parts of Europe it is obtained in quan- 
tity from Conifers while in Hawaii much of the honey produced 
consists of honeydew from insects that feed on sugar cane. Im- 
ported West Indian honey often consists largely of honeydew. Such 
honey finds uses in the confectionery and baking trades. 

Among the Conifers known to produce honeydew are Pines 
(Pinus), Firs (Abies), Spruces (Picea), Cedars (Cedrus and Liboce- 
drus), Larches (Larix) and Junipers (Juniperus). Generally it is not 
produced every year but only in those seasons when conditions are 
favourable for it. The honey obtained from this source is generally 
thick and dark, even greenish-black, and with a characteristic 
strong flavour. It is well known in many parts of Germany and 
may form half the honey crop in some instances, also in Switzer- 
land. Known as 'tannehonig' it is often preferred to ordinary honey 
by local inhabitants or those accustomed to it. In Germany Larch 
(Larix decidua) and Spruce (Abies pectinatd) are considered to be the 
main sources: Pine only to a lesser extent. The Incense Cedar 
(Libocedrus decurrens) is a source of honeydew honey in California. 

This 'Conifer honey' is known in Britain, but is only rarely ob- 
tained. It would seem that the conditions necessary for the honey- 
dew to be produced by the trees rarely accompany an English 
summer. In parts of Central Europe it is only obtained in hot 
summers. It has been recorded in the Camberley area of Surrey 
(by no less an authority than Miss Betts), where Scots Pine is very 
prevalent in the neighbouring heathland (Bagshot Heath) . Comb 
honey from it was described as uncommonly good, but with cap- 
t>,yigs dark and watery looking, and not attractive (Bee World, 
1936, 7). It has also been recorded from Scotland (Ross, Inverness 
and Aberdeenshire), from the same botanical source, the honey 
being stated to be favoured by connoisseurs of honey and very 
dense, although easy to extract (Scottish Beekeeper, August 1938). 

This type of honey, although apparently superior to most honey- 
dew honeys for eating purposes, is considered to be bad for winter- 
ing. It probably has a high protein content like other honeys of 
this class. 


Propolis or bee glue as it is sometimes called is a nuisance to 
every beekeeper, particularly towards the end of the season when 
it is most in evidence. Its primary use by bees is to stop up cracks 
and crevices in the hive. It may be collected from a number of 
different plants. Some of these are known with certainty but there 

D 49 


is doubt regarding others. Bees have been observed tearing away 
lumps of the resinous matter from plants, especially the trunks of 
pine trees, with their mandibles and eventually packing it in their 
pollen baskets. There is still much to be learned, however, regard- 
ing the plant sources of propolis in the British Isles throughout the 
summer months. Unfortunately the collection of propolis by the 
honey bee is difficult to observe and is not the spectacular process 
that the collection of pollen is. 

Propolis varies a good deal in colour, also in physical properties, 
although the more obvious qualities such as stickiness and brittle- 
ness are largely governed by temperature. The extent to which it is 
used is also largely dependent upon the variety or race of bee. With 
regard to colour this may range from yellow to dark reddish- 
brown according to the plant source. When fresh it may be clear 
and colourless. The greenish colour so common with propolis in 
the hive is due to admixture with wax or other substances. Wax is 
commonly mixed with propolis by bees. 

Many plants secrete sticky substances in some form or other. 
Besides the drops of resin on the trunks of pine trees, familiar 
examples are the sticky buds of the horse-chestnut in early spring. 
Pine resin is definitely collected by bees as propolis but in the case 
of the horse-chestnut the gummy matter is present at a time when 
bees have no use for it, for in Britain propolis is never collected 
between the months of October and April. Nor is it collected dur- 
ing a strong honey flow. Some poplars, especially the balsam pop- 
lars, produce a resinous material on the buds which bees are known 
to use as propolis both in this country and elsewhere. Bees h$ye_ 
also been observed collecting the gummy matter from the heads 
of sunflowers and the buds of hollyhocks. Other plants that have 
been referred to as sources of propolis in the British Isles are: birch, 
alder, beech, willow, and chestnut. 

Bees will of course collect other materials for propolis besides 
exudations from plants. Old quilts and hives with propolis already 
attached to them are always welcome on hot days. Bees have also 
been observed taking bitumin and varnish from woodwork. It is 
thought the old saying that 'bees follow their master to the grave' 
is due to bees having been observed on coffins, the fresh varnish 
being the attraction. 

Propolis is not always easily distinguished from pollen on the 
bees' legs. It is generally present in small loads only. In hot weather 
they may appear as two glistening dots. 

A bee may take from a quarter to one hour to collect a load, and 



on arrival at the hive other bees remove the loads with their jaws, 
which may be a laborious process. Sometimes this is done on the 
floor of the hive or the alighting board, hence the specks of prop- 
polis that frequently collect there, some being dropped and left. 
Mankind has found few if any regular uses for propolis. It has 
been used in medicine and in leather polishes. The old Italian 
violin varnish as used by Stradivarius and other noted makers of 
Cremona is now believed to have been nothing other than propolis 
derived from poplar (Bee World, 1936, 56). In the wild state bees 
use propolis to make their hives or nests water- and wind-proof and 
to restrict entrances to exclude natural enemies but under domes- 
tication its use is superfluous as beekeepers will wholeheartedly 

Section 2 


Trifolium spp.: Leguminosae 

The clovers are the most important honey producing plants 
in Britain and are considered to account for about 75 per 
cent of the yearly honey crop. White clover (T. repens) is by 
far the main producer among the different kinds of clover that are 
cultivated or occur in pastures. Besides the cultivated clovers which 
may almost be numbered on the fingers of one hand, there are a 
number of wild clovers which are never cultivated, but which are 
useful nectar plants. About two dozen species of Trifolium are in- 
cluded in the British flora, but some are rare or very local in distri- 
bution and so are of little consequence to beekeepers. Several of the 
cultivated kinds that are good nectar plants occur freely in both the 
wild and the cultivated state. They are dealt with separately in 
the discussion that follows. Some of the clover-like plants that afford 
good bee pasturage, but which are not true clovers and do not be- 
long to the genus Trifolium, are dealt with under their respective 
headings sainfoin, melilotus or sweet clover, lucerne, bird's foot 
trefoil, etc. 

WHITE GLOVER Trifolium repens (Plate 7) 

This valuable bee plant is the premier honey producer in many 
other countries besides Britain. Large quantities of honey are ob- 
tained from it in Canada, the northern United States, parts of 
Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, etc. It has been 
stated that a greater quantity of honey is obtained from this plant 
throughout the world than from any other individual plant, also 
that wherever the Anglo-Saxon race has settled or become the 
dominant race the main stay of their honey production will be 
found to be this plant. The best grades of imported Empire honey, 
i.e. Canadian and New Zealand, are derived from it. 

Throughout Britain white clover is one of the commonest plants 
and is to be found in all types of pasture excepting those on acid 
soils. It is prevalent along roadsides where it often thrives in the 
gravel or sand swept off the road surface. This may be due largely 



to the good soil aeration such a habitat provides. It also occurs, 
freely in waste places and as a weed in arable land and lawns. It 
even grows well on the slag heaps of some of the midland industrial 
towns ('black country') where enterprising beekeepers have 
wrested good quality honey from it in spite of the otherwise un- 
congenial conditions (9). 

Being a valuable fodder for stock it is much grown for pasturage, 
usually in company with grasses and other clovers. It enters into 
the composition of seed mixtures used for both temporary leys and 
long duration grassland. There are two main types of white clover 
the so-called 'wild white* and the ordinary white or 'Dutch* 
clover, much of the seed being imported from Holland. The 'wild 
white' is a smaller plant than the 'Dutch', with smaller leaves and 
flowers and a free running or creeping habit. It is also longer lived 
and is most used for permanent pasture. The seed is more expen- 
sive than the 'Dutch' and is collected from finest old sheep pastures 
in Kent. There is probably little difference between the two types 
as honey producers, but some observers (13) have expressed the 
view that the 'wild white' is more freely worked than the 'Dutch* 
when they are grown side by side. There are many improved 
strains or varieties of white clover. One which has come well to 
the fore in English ley farming is 'S.ioo' (Aberystwyth) which 
quickly establishes itself, commences growth early and continues 
growing late into the autumn. 'Ladino' clover is a giant form of 
white clover that originated in Northern Italy and has interested 
beekeepers in the United States (Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1943, 700). 
v White clover commences to flower early in June in most southern 
districts and continues in flower for the greater part of the summer, 
provided prolonged drought does not intervene. The actual honey 
flow usually commences about ten days after the first open blos- 
soms appear. Flowers that appear towards the end of the flowering 
period do not produce much nectar. 

Each flower-head contains from fifty to one hundred individual 
flowers or florets. These all stand erect at first, but as they become 
pollinated and cease to secrete nectar they bend downwards and 
eventually wither. The flower-tube is relatively short and other 
insects besides honey bees are able to get at the nectar. The sta- 
mens or male elements of the flowers are hidden from view and 
are united into a tube for the greater part, as in other clovers and 
most Leguminous plants. It is on the lower inner surface of this 
staminal tube that the nectar is to be found. 

Under favourable conditions the flowers secrete nectar very 



freely and heavy honey crops are taken in good seasons. The tem- 
perature range over which white clover will secrete nectar is wide 
compared with that of many plants, and probably extends lower 
than the temperature required for bees to fly. Assuming there is 
adequate soil moisture and the plants do not wilt, it is doubtful 
whether the mild climate of Britain ever becomes too hot for the 
plant to secrete. Most beekeepers in clover areas hold the view that 
the warmer the weather the better the flow, assuming always that 
drought does not unduly deplete soil moisture. This may not, and 
probably does not apply to Continental climates where much 
hotter summers are the rule. In the United States it is said of the 
plant: 'It rarely may be counted upon as a major honey-source 
where the average summer temperature exceeds 75 F. A more 
important consideration, however, is that secretion is most rapid 
where there is a considerable daily range of temperature, the best 
results being observed when the night temperature is below 65 F. 
and the daily temperature above that point.' (Beekeeping in the 
Clover Region, U.S. Dept. Agric., Farmers' Bull. No. 1215.) 

Even with the right climatic and temperature conditions the soil 
is all-important in determining to what extent white clover will 
prove to be a good honey source. Soils having an abundance of 
lime always yield the best results and some of the best clover honey 
districts are those on the chalk, such as the slopes of the Ghilterns 
and Cotswolds. Some contend the plant yields better on hilly 
slopes than it does on lowlands and will continue to yield later in 
the year (14). Where there is a marked deficiency of lime in the 
soil, as in the neighbourhood of Bagshot Heath, white clover majt 
yield no nectar at all, but be visited by bees for pollen. 

Some of the sheep farming districts of Leicestershire and Lin- 
colnshire afford first-class bee pasturage, white clover being grown 
on a large scale and often without other mixtures. A mass of bloom 
over a wide area is not uncommon in such areas. White clover has 
the advantage that it is invariably grown to be grazed and not to 
be cut away completely for fodder or for hay just when it is in 
flower, as is the case with some clovers. This means that there is 
always blossom available to the bees throughout the season. 

White clover honey is the honey par excellence the honey with 
which all other honeys are compared. It is light in colour, from 
water white to pale amber, and very bright. It has good density 
combined with a delicate flavour and aroma. The flavour has a 
more or less universal appeal. Unlike some honeys, it is not liked by 
some people and disliked by others. This accounts for the popularity 



of the honey as a trade product. It finds favour with the largest 
possible number of customers. The density and colour of the honey 
vary to some extent with the season and the soil. When the nectar 
flow is slow or intermittent the honey is darker than when it is 
obtained from a fast steady flow. The honey granulates well with 
a fine smooth grain and is white, almost resembling lard. It does 
not granulate quickly. This is one of the reasons why it is favoured 
for comb honey, in which form it can hardly be excelled. 

The pollen of white clover is pale yellow in colour and is pro- 
duced rather sparingly by the flowers. When packed in the bees' 
pollen baskets it assumes a dull greenish appearance and is not 
usually brought back to the hive in large loads as is the case with 
many pollens. It is one of the pollens most commonly found in 
English honey. The individual pollen grains are somewhat vari- 
able in size, shape and colour, and may easily be confused with 
those of certain other clovers and clover-like plants. 

RED CLOVER Trifolium pratense 

Like white clover, this species occurs very freely in the wild and 
the cultivated state and is of great importance to the agricultur- 
ist. It is, however, not nearly such a good honey plant as it is only 
under special or exceptional conditions that the honey bee is able 
to work its larger flowers for nectar. The flowers are red or pur- 
plish in colour, but otherwise the flower-heads are very similar to 
those of white clover. The plant may be distinguished when not 
in flower by the white 'horse-shoe 5 mark on the upper surface of 
the leaf. 

There are many varieties of red clover used in agriculture. They 
are employed in pasture seed mixtures of various kinds and may 
be sown as a sole crop for cutting. They fall into three groups: (i) 
early or medium flowering ('cow grass' or 'broad red' type); (2) 
late flowering or 'single cut' red clover; and (3) the wild or indi- 
genous type. The early flowering sorts bloom from two to four weeks 
sooner than the late flowering. 

When honey has been obtained from red clover it has usually 
been from the second crop, i.e. the crop arising after the first crop 
has been cut. The reason given for this in the past has been that 
the flowers of the second (or third) crop are smaller and with 
shorter 'flower tubes', which enables honey bees to reach the nec- 
tar. This theory has, however, been discredited as a result of care- 
ful measurements made of the flower size of first and second crop 
red clover. It has been shown that there is really very little differ- 



ence in tube length, the small reduction being insufficient to 
account for the bees' ability to reach the nectar. The explanation 
now put forward is that it is the forces of capillarity that enable 
the bee to extract the nectar, provided that in the first place 
secretion is sufficiently copious for the nectar to rise appreciably 
in the tube. The nectar forms a meniscus in the tube, aided by the 
presence of the ovary, so that it stands higher against the side of 
the staminal tube. Once this reaches a sufficiently high level for 
the honey bee to reach it with the tip of the tongue the bee is able 
to extract all the nectar. If, however, the nectar rises a certain 
amount but remains just out of reach of the bee she is unable to 
obtain any of it, although of course bumble bees may take it. In 
other words, if the flower holds sufficient nectar for the honey bee 
to reach it she will be able to empty the flower, but will get noth- 
ing more from that flower until such time as the nectar again rises 
sufficiently high for her to reach the top of it. From this it is clear 
that while the longer tongued bumble bees are able to get nectar 
from red clover, however little may be secreted, it is only when 
secretion is heavy, i.e. conditions for nectar production very favour- 
able, that the honey bee is able to work the flowers for nectar (Bee 
World, 1936, 102). In many areas conditions for nectar secretion 
are quite likely to be more favourable later in the year when 
second or third crop red clover is in flower. 

It has now been shown by Dr. C. G. Butler (Annals of Applied 
Biology, 1941, 125) that both first and subsequent crops of red 
clover may be worked for nectar by honey bees under favourable 
conditions and that they may also visit the flowers for pollen only* 
The average length of flower tube is 9*6 mm. and the average 
honey bee is estimated to be able to reach 7*9 mm. Therefore the 
nectar must rise 1*7 mm. or more to become available. At Roth- 
amsted 'during the dry summer of 1940 this appeared to happen 
about once in every four or five days, usually after a night of heavy 
dew when the honey bees were found working this plant for nec- 
tar. A heavy dew leads to the absorption of water by the nectar 
and consequently to a rise in height in the corolla tube, which may 
be sufficient to bring it within reach of the honey bee. A number 
(127) of measurements were made of the height to which the nectar 
in the corolla tube rose, and it was found to vary between approxi- 
mately o and 3-4 mm.' (C. G. Butler). 

A special variety or strain of red clover known as 'Zofka' clover, 
is claimed to have a short staminal tube, only 6*5-7 mm., an d to 
be well suited as a nectar plant to the honey bee. It originated from 



a Dr. Joseph Zofka in Czechoslovakia (American Bee Journal, 1937, 

As the actual amount of nectar secreted by the red clover flower 
is greater than that from either of the other two commonly culti- 
vated clovers in Britain (White and Alsike clover) it is unfortunate 
that the honey bee cannot take full advantage of it. Nevertheless 
red clover may be a more important minor source of nectar than 
is generally supposed by beekeepers. 

When honey is obtained from red clover it is of the same high 
quality and has the same general characteristics as that of white 
clover, but may granulate more quickly. 

ALSIKE CLOVER Trifolium hybridum 

Alsike or Swedish clover derives its name from the village or 
district of Alsike in Sweden where it originated. It was introduced 
to Britain over a hundred years ago and is much used in seed 
mixtures for pastures, especially short leys, most of the seed used 
in Britain coming from Canada. It is a valuable hay plant and is 
generally grown with grasses for support, being somewhat prone 
to lodge. This clover has the advantage of being able to thrive 
under soil conditions that are too wet and acid or too deficient in 
lime for white or red clover. It is also more resistant to 'clover 
sickness' than red clover. Unlike red clover it makes little or no 
second growth after cutting. 

The flower-heads are very like those of White or Dutch clover, 
but more pinkish. The plant is of erect growth, one to three feet, 
a-Ad intermediate in general characters between red and white 
clover. Its flowering period is equally long. 

The mechanism of the flower in Alsike is the same as that in 
white clover and it is of about the same value as a honey plant. 
In some areas in fact it is considered to yield nectar more freely 
than white clover (20). The honey obtained from Alsike clover is 
so similar to that from white clover that it is doubtful whether it is 
distinguishable at all. 

CRIMSON CLOVER Trifolium incarnatum 

This clover, also called Italian and Carnation clover, is an 
annual not a perennial like most clovers. It is a native of southern 
Europe and was at one time grown in flower gardens on account 
of its showy, deep crimson, flower heads, which are elongated and 
not globular in shape. It is now generally seen as a farm crop. 
Fields in flower present a magnificent sight and may be conspicu- 



ous miles away. The name 'trifolium' is commonly applied to it in 
agricultural circles in Britain, where it is grown mainly in the 
south and south-eastern districts, not being hardy enough for the 
north. It is usually sown in September to stand through the winter, 
often as a catch crop after a cereal, when the simplest cultivation 
only is needed. 

Flowering takes place early in the following summer before the 
other clovers are out, and it is here that the value of 'trifolium' to 
the beekeeper mainly lies. It is a valuable honey plant and often 
fills the gap in the nectar flow between the fruit and tree blossoms 
and white clover. It may be fed off with hurdled sheep or to dairy 
cows. This is done before the plants are in full flower as the flower 
heads become somewhat prickly with age and may cause digestive 
troubles. It is unfortunate for the beekeeper that this has to be 
done and means that the bees are unable to benefit from all the 

There are several varieties of 'trifolium' early, medium, late 
and a white-flowered late variety. Honey from this crop is light 
in colour and similar to that of other clovers. 


This tufted annual bears small yellow flower heads of about a 
dozen flowers and is common in grassland. The seed is sometimes 
incorporated in seed mixtures for temporary leys in soils well- 
suited to cocksfoot, when abundant aftermath is desired. It is use- 
ful on poor light land. In spite of their insignificance the flowers 
are attractive to bees and yield nectar abundantly. They appear 
in June and July and doubtless contribute to the honey crop in 
some areas. The plant is also known as 'small yellow trefoil'. 

HOP CLOVER Trifolium procumbent 

Hop clover or hop trefoil is another of the small or insignificant 
clovers common in pastures and the borders of fields. It bears hop- 
shaped heads of yellow flowers from June to August, which are 
also a useful minor source of nectar. This clover may be used in 
seed mixtures to give good bottom cover. It is sometimes confused 
with ordinary trefoil or hop medic (Medicago lupulina). 

Honey bees also visit the flowers of strawberry clover ( T. fragi- 
ferurri) and barefoot clover (7*. arvense), both wild plants but not 
cultivated, the latter often common near the sea. 



Tilia spp.: Tiliaceae (Plates 8, 9) 

As a honey producer the lime or linden is second only to clover 
in the British Isles. While the clovers are considered to account for 
about 75 per cent of the total quantity of honey produced, the 
lime supplies the greater part of the remainder (29). 

For many thousands of British beekeepers who reside in or near 
towns the lime is their sole source of 'surplus' honey. In the aggre- 
gate such beekeepers produce a not inconsiderable amount of 
honey every year for home or local use. The large scale or com- 
mercial beekeeper who relies on pastures or field crops for his 
honey crop may however prefer to be without limes within flight 
range of his bees owing to the possibility of honeydew contaminat- 
ing or spoiling his main honey crop, for the tree is a bad offender 
in this respect in some years. 

There are some thirty different species of lime or Tilia known 
to science. All are natives of the north temperate zone Europe, 
North America and Asia, including China and Japan. They all 
have many characteristics in common, such as type of leaf and 
flower structure, the flowers being borne on a conspicuous bract. 
Furthermore, it is probable that all are fragrant and yield nectar, 
for this applies to about two dozen species that the writer has been 
able to observe personally in flower, although it would seem that 
some secrete nectar more freely than others. Apart from botanic 
gardens or private collections only three limes are commonly met 
with in Britain. These are, in order of their prevalence: 

Tilia vulgaris, the common lime of streets, parks and private 
gardens; of European origin and a hybrid. Different individual 
trees may vary somewhat in their time of flowering, even in the 
same area. They may reach large dimensions over 100 feet in 
height and bear smooth branches and heart-shaped leaves two 
to four inches long. Trees may reach a great age and many famous 
and historical trees and avenues exist. 

Tilia platyphyllos, wild in parts of Hereford, Radnor and York- 
shire; very like the above but with larger leaves, downy shoots and 
fewer flowers on each bract. It is often planted in place of the 
above and has roughly the same flowering period. Hybrid forms, 
or forms intermediate between T.vulgaris and T.platyphyllos are not 
uncommon. Like T.vulgaris different trees in the same area may 
vary a good deal in their time of flowering, some being several days 



earlier or later every year, than others. A certain street tree known 
to the writer in the Kew district always flowers about a week be- 
fore any other tree in the neighbourhood. If such a tree were 
propagated (vegetatively) it is probable this valuable character- 
istic would be maintained. 

Tilia cordata, the 'small leaved lime 5 ; occurs wild or apparently 
wild in some parts of the west of England. It is characterized by 
its smaller leaves and flowers which are not all pendant and there- 
fore probably more liable to have their nectar spoiled by rain. It 
flowers later than the above two common limes but is not often 
planted. It is much more important for honey on the mainland of 
Europe than in Britain, for there extensive woods occur and it is 
commonly planted as a street tree. 

A few of the other species of Tilia are sometimes planted as 
ornamental trees such as T.tomentosa (the white lime), T.petiolaris 
(the pendent white lime), and occasionally T.euchlora, sometimes 
referred to as the Crimea lime. 

The two common limes referred to above (T.vulgaris and T. 
platyphyllos) , which supply practically all the lime honey harvested 
in the country, generally come into flower in the third week in 
June in the south-east of England but later farther north and earlier 
in the west. In early or late seasons they may depart from this by 
anything up to ten days. The flowering period does not generally 
last for more than two to three weeks or perhaps a month if cold 
or wet weather intervenes. The individual flowers open at night 
and last for about a week, turning to a darker shade of cream or 
yellow on about the third day. Nectar is secreted during the whole 
of the time and more copiously when the darker coloured or 'fe- 
male' stage of the flower is reached. For some unknown reason 
some of the flower buds never open. 

The intense fragrance of the lime in flower is well known and 
even suggests honey. It may often be detected many yards away 
from the tree. The flowers are commonly collected and dried in 
European countries and used for making a kind of tea or tisane. 
It is only rarely that the lime ripens its seed properly in the climate 
of Britain, requiring a hot or Continental type of summer to do 
so. This applies also to most of the other introduced limes. 

Nectar secretion in the lime flower is rather unusual in that it 
takes place on the inner side of the five boat-shaped sepals, and is 
held in position there by small hairs aided by surface tension. The 
sepal may become only moist with nectar but when secretion is 
copious as sometimes happens on sultry mornings, the nectar col- 



lects in large drops and is to be seen glistening in the flowers. 
Shaking a branch then may cause quite a shower of nectar. The 
secretion of nectar in the five sepals of a single flower is not always 
uniform, some often containing more than others. 

In working a lime flower for nectar, especially if it is only moist, 
the honey bee often scoops the end of the ligula or tongue round 
the inside of the sepal, removing all traces of nectar. This may 
easily be seen from above the flower owing to the transparent 
nature of the sepal. Sometimes a bee will alight on a flower that 
obviously has nectar and yet proceed to another flower before 
taking any nectar. Is this because the sugar concentration in 
different flowers varies, as with age, and the bee knows how to 
select the one with the high sugar content? 

There has been much discussion as to what constitutes the best 
climatic or weather conditions for free nectar secretion in the lime. 
Some interesting work in this connection has been done by Con- 
tinental workers (Bcutler and Wahl), but it is probable the con- 
clusions arrived at cannot always be applied to Britain where con- 
ditions are different and average summer temperatures lower than 
those of similar European latitudes. 

Observant beekeepers in Britain with experience of lime dis- 
tricts generally consider the best conditions for a good lime flow 
are warm nights and warm sultry days (high atmospheric hu- 
midity), with the sky perhaps overcast; but certainly not hot, dry, 
bright sunny days such as might be the most favourable for many 
other nectar plants. It must be remembered the lime secretes its 
nectar mainly, if not entirely, before midday. Bees may often be 
seen working limes very early in the morning. With hot dry days 
or drying winds there is a tendency for the nectar to be dried out 
early in the day and little more is secreted, with the result that the 
bees find little or nothing to bring in during the afternoon and 
evening. The open nature of the lime flower is also conducive to 
this. Temperature is of course of great importance for there is 
little or no secretion in cold weather. In Europe the optimum 
temperature for lime nectar secretion has been considered to be 
66-70 F. (Bee World, 1938, 29). The same might apply to Britain. 

The lime does not appear to be particular with regard to soil 
and will thrive and secrete nectar in a variety of soils that may 
differ from one another considerably in physical texture and in 
chemical composition. While soil moisture may be important in 
countries with a naturally dry climate it is doubtful whether it is 
of much significance in the relatively wet climate of Britain. Fur- 



thermore being a tree and deep rooted the lime is able to draw 
moisture from a considerable depth in the soil and is not depen- 
dent on the moisture in the surface layers like many honey plants 
that are of short duration. 

In most years and in most districts in Britain a certain amount 
of honey is always obtained from the lime where it is sufficiently 
abundant, but really good or 'bumper' years only come round 
once in every three or four seasons. It is seldom that it fails alto- 
gether. When it does it is due to unfavourable weather at blossom- 
ing time, such as excessive rain or cold winds. Cold winds are 
definitely inimical to the nectar flow but fortunately are not usual 
at the time of year when the lime flowers. All winds, however, are 
not necessarily harmful for the production of nectar. After rain 
mild drying winds may have a beneficial effect in raising the sugar 
concentration of the nectar. 

In spite of the pendant nature of the flowers and the nectar 
being secreted on the under surface of the sepals, where it would 
appear to be well protected, heavy rain does cause serious dilution 
of the nectar. This was well demonstrated at Kew in the summer 
of 1943 by the writer, in collaboration with Mr. L. R. Hayward, 
in connection with work on sugar content of the nectar of different 
species of lime growing at Kew. Incidentally this work indicated 
that there was probably little difference in the nectar concentra- 
tion of different species of lime flowering at the same time but that 
the age of the flower was probably important, old flowers having 
more copious and a richer nectar than those newly opened. In 
Germany it has been found that there is little difference in the 
composition of lime nectar from different parts of the country 
(Beutler). There seems to be some evidence that flowers at the top 
of a tree may have a different nectar concentration from those 
near the ground. 

To obtain surplus honey from limes it is of course essential to 
have a sufficient number of trees for the number of hives or bees 
in the neighbourhood, a few isolated trees being of little account. 
In this connection it is interesting to note that according to Beutler 
and Wahl's figures about forty average sized lime trees are needed 
per hive for an increase in hive weight of 4 Ib. daily (Bee World, 
1938, 17). Where there are many trees and the flow is heavy bees 
may get all the nectar they can deal with from trees close at hand 
and do not bother to visit those further afield. Probably no other 
plant or tree secretes such quantities of nectar as the lime when at 
its best. 



Lime honey is well liked by most people, in spite of its distinctive 
flavour, usually described as c minty' or 'like peppermint'. It is 
usually light amber with a greenish tinge, which may be due to 
traces of honeydew, for there is always a certain amount on the 
leaves of the lime. Its density, however, is not good for it is always 
thin. It crystallizes after a few months with a fine smooth grain. 
Lime honey always contains lime pollen to a greater or less extent. 
This is of a dull yellow colour, the individual grain being like a 
flattened sphere in shape with three pores on its edge. It is of 
average size for pollen twenty-five to thirty microns (27). 

The lime is the worst offender among British trees for honeydew. 
This is collected most by bees when hot dry weather coincides 
with blossoming time, for then nectar ceases to be available early 
in the day and the bees turn to honeydew. While plenty of nectar 
is available they do not seem to bother about it. As the honeydew 
itself is always darkened by fungus (sooty moulds) it causes the 
honey to be dark. This may vary from olive green to almost black 
and the flavour is always inferior, sickly to some. It has been shown 
that lime honeydew may be toxic to some extent to bees (Bee World, 
Vol. 24, 6). The flowers of some species of lime (e.g. T.petiolaris, 
T.tomentosa, T.orbicularis) may also have a harmful effect on bees, 
for it is common to find dead or dying bees under the trees. At Kew 
this is much more noticeable in some seasons than others. Casual- 
ties are always much higher among bumble than hive bees, prob- 
ably because of their larger honey sacks and the greater quantity 
of nectar they consume. In many seasons no dead hive bees are to 
be seen under the trees, only bumble bees. It is probable the actual 
amount of poisoning caused by limes is small having regard to the 
total bee population and that their merits as honey producers far 
outweigh their demerits. 

The lime has been much planted as an avenue tree throughout 
the country in the past and many fine avenues still exist, especially 
as approaches to country mansions. It has also been much used in 
street planting but there has been a falling off in lime planting in 
the last few decades for various reasons. This is unfortunate for the 
beekeeper, or rather for future generations of beekeepers. Present- 
day beekeepers benefit from the lime planting of their forefathers, 
the lime being a long-lived tree and requiring ten to fifteen years 
before it commences to blossom as a rule. Some of the newer limes, 
however, and those from the Orient do not have the weaknesses of 
the common lime for general planting although quite hardy and 
equally good as bee pasturage. If these trees could be given a fair 



trial as street and avenue trees, and for parks, pleasure grounds and 
open spaces generally the honey producing capacity of many parts 
of the country might be greatly improved and future generations 
of beekeepers be thankful to those responsible. 

Reasons why the common lime has fallen into disrepute as an 
avenue and street tree are: (i) its susceptibility to honeydew and 
the 'messiness' this implies; (2) early leaf fall; (3) habit of sucker- 
ing from the base and trunk; (4) large size for suburban streets; 
and (5) soft nature of the bark of young trees and susceptibility 
to injury. 

The honeydew menace is without doubt the main popular ob- 
jection to the lime. Not because it may mean spoiled honey, that 
being the beekeeper's concern and beekeepers are a small section 
of the community, but because the sticky secretion falls on pave- 
ments and streets making them slippery and on anything that may 
be under them, such as parked cars, public seats, etc. There have 
been many instances of falls caused by this honeydew, resulting in 
broken limbs and even litigation. In at least one town known to 
the writer (Cambridge) lime honeydew has been so bad in some 
years that the local authority has had sand or gravel strewn on 
certain streets to render them more safe. In bygone days of slow 
horse-drawn traffic and pavements and streets not made up or 
macadamized, honeydew was not the nuisance it is now with fast 
motor traffic and high grade surfaces. 

Early leaf fall causes premature littering of the streets and an 
autumnal aspect that is objected to on aesthetic grounds. Some 
limes hold their leaves later in the year than the common lime. 
The suckering and production of young shoots from the trunk 
means constant pruning on the part of the local authority. This 
means labour and therefore expense. It is only the common lime 
that is a serious offender in this respect. With regard to size and 
suitability for small suburban streets or grounds of limited extent, 
there are limes that have a much smaller habit than the common 

The following are some of the limes that may be worthy of con- 
sideration by those interested in the planting of limes for bee 

Tilia euchlora, 'Crimea Lime', a hybrid from eastern Europe in- 
troduced to Britain about 1860; of upright growth with dark green 
glossy leaves and pendulous branches; remarkably free from insect 
honeydew; flowers and casts its leaves later than the common 
lime; the flowers are apparently not so freely worked by honey bees 



*LATE 7. is any 



Pi, ATE li Trees such as these, planted by our forebears, a 

source of much honey to present-day 


as those of some limes; much planted as a street tree in some Euro- 
pean countries but not in Britain; probably the most beautiful of 
limes and an ideal avenue tree. 

Tilia mongolica, * Mongolian Lime'; introduced to Britain in 
1904; a small tree of slow growth with small maple-like leaves and 
reddish leaf-stalks; flowers a month later than the common lime; 
very free flowering at Kew; blossoms small, fragrant and freely 
worked by bees; the tree is very hardy, of handsome erect appear- 
ance, and should be suitable as a small avenue or street tree. 

Tilia platyphyllos variety asplenifolia, 'Cut-leaved or Fern-leaved 
Lime'. Another small lime where large free growing trees are not 
desired; of dense, compact growth with small deeply dissected 
leaves; exceptionally free flowering; much worked by hive bees; 
sheds its leaves and flower bracts early. 

Tilia maximowicziana, 'Japanese Lime'. Introduced to Kew in 
1904; a large forest tree in Japan, bears large clusters of flowers 
which literally hum with bees year after year; at Kew it is more 
intensively worked by honey bees than any other species. 

Other Oriental limes attractive to the hive bee but not yet in 
general cultivation are: Tilia insularis (Corea), T.oliveri (Central 
China), T.miqueliana (Japan), T.mandschurica (Manchuria) and 
T. henry ana (Central China). 

Among the late flowering limes are: T.tomentosa (white lime), 
T.petiolaris (weeping white lime), and T.orbicularis (a hybrid). 
These all have a whitish under-surfacc to the leaves and develop 
into large trees. If abundant they might considerably extend the 
lime flow, carrying it well into August. In some years the flowers 
poison or stupefy a certain number of bees as already pointed out. 

The North American limes (T.americana y T.Michauxii, and T. 
heterophylla], known as bass wood in their native land and the source 
of much honey, are also good bee plants in Britain but are rarely 
seen. At Kew they flower two or three weeks later than the com- 
mon lime. 

A study of the accompanying chart of the flowering periods of 
some of the limes at Kew in a normal season may be of interest 
(page 66). The commencement of flowering may vary up to a 
week or ten days if the season happens to be an abnormally early 
or late one. However, the relative periods of flowering of different 
species of lime remains much the same whether the season be early 
or late. The chart indicates how the lime nectar flow of an area 
could be extended from the usual two to three weeks to six weeks 
were it possible to have a sufficient number of early, medium, and 
E 65 


late flowering limes in the same district or locality. Theoretically 
this should double or even treble the average honey yield as ob- 
tained at present where the common lime is the only source. How 
this could best be achieved the writer leaves to the imagination of 
the reader. Doubtless the garden city of the beekeeper's dreams 
has all the streets lined with the smaller limes of one sort or 
another with a selection of the taller growing kinds in parks, open 
spaces and along the borders of playing-fields, providing in all a 
copious and extended nectar flow. 

Early Street Tree at Kew 

(Tilia platyphyllos] 
Cut-Leaved Lime 

(T.platyphyllos var. 

Common Lime 

(T. vulgar is) 
Japanese Lime 

( T.maximowicziana) 
Crimea Lime 

Silver Lime 

Hybrid Lime 

Weeping Silver Lime 

( T.petiolaris) 





The heavy line represents the common lime and the chart illustrates how 
judicious planting of different species in a district may considerably 
extend the nectar flow. 


Calluna vulgaris: Ericaceae (Plate 10} 

The production of heather honey may be described as the only 
specialized type of honey production in Great Britain and is 
largely confined to Scotland. The extensive moors in the north of 
England are also important and a little is produced on the Devon- 
shire moors. The crop is an uncertain one and usually obtained by 



migratory beekeeping. A really good season only occurs about one 
year in seven and often no 'surplus' at all is obtained although the 
hives may become well stocked with stores for the winter. This is 
often considered by the owner to be sufficient recompense for the 
cost and trouble of transportation to and from the moors. 

Heather or ling is the dominant plant in heathlands in the south 
of England but these are not important for honey. In eastern 
Europe the plant covers extensive tracts of country from Brittany 
to Scandinavia, being typical of poor soils, and in the aggregate 
is the source of a good deal of the thick strong-flavoured honey so 
characteristic of this plant. In general the production of heather 
honey only appeals to beekeepers situated within easy distance of 
the moors. 

Heather is in flower from August, usually mid-August, to about 
the end of September, and so has a longer flowering period than 
most honey plants. In the south some flowers may be found open 
in July. The flowers are smaller than those of the true heaths, with 
the corolla tubes only two to three mm. long. Nectar is concealed 
at the base of the flower and is secreted by eight tiny swellings or 
nectaries which alternate with the bases of the stamens. As the 
flower ages nectar secretion ceases and the stamens elongate. The 
pollen is slate grey in colour and is collected by bees. It is always 
present in heather honey in great abundance. The grains are in 
tetrads as in the heaths, somewhat irregular and beset with rows 
of tubercles. 

Conflicting views are held and have been freely expressed re- 
garding the best conditions for the free secretion of nectar in 
heather. All are agreed on certain points, however, and that the 
following factors are important: (i) the nature of the soil and sub- 
soil; (2) the age of the heather; (3) rainfall; and (4) possibly alti- 
tude. All these factors may of course be discounted by bad bee- 
flying weather, rain or cold winds, while the heather is out. This 
often happens owing to the lateness of the season when heather 
blooms and the fact that it generally grows in areas that are bleak 
and inhospitable. Actually the heather flower will secrete nectar 
at quite a low temperature, probably lower than that required for 
bees to fly. 

In Scotland, J. Tinsley of the West of Scotland Agricultural 
College, who has made a valuable contribution (22) to the study 
of heather honey production there, considers the following con- 
ditions as the most favourable: 'The type of heather that gives the 
best yield of nectar is that obtained from young shoots about a 


foot high. The large bushes of heather, which are several years old, 
although a mass of bloom, yield very little nectar. On the other 
hand, young heather which springs up in a year or two after burn- 
ing of the old heather is rich in nectar. Subsoil plays an important 
part in the production of nectar. Peat and bog land yield very 
little nectar, while hill land with a subsoil of granite and ironstone 
gives the best results. This was particularly noticeable at Lead- 
hills, in Lanarkshire, and judging by the many samples of ling 
honey received from all parts of Scotland, there is no doubt 
that the Lanarkshire heather honey cannot be surpassed in 

It has been stated that the honey obtained from ling in the south 
of England is quite different from that obtained in the north, and 
that in many parts of the south the plant is of no use at all as a 
honey producer and does not secrete nectar. The fact that the 
honey itself may differ from Scotch heather honey is probably 
because the heathlands in the south are much less extensive and 
less uniform than those in the north and there is therefore a much 
greater chance of admixture with nectar or honey from other 
floral sources. With regard to soil it has been pointed out (Miss 
Betts, Bee World, Nov., 1939) that the nature of the subsoil is 
vitally important in the south also. Heather is a deep-rooting plant 
and not a lime lover, and where it occurs in relatively shallow 
layers of soil overlying limestone or chalk the plants may not 
secrete nectar at all. On the other hand where the subsoil is an 
acid sand, as on Bagshot Heath, secretion is good with favourable 
weather conditions and honey readily obtained, having all the 
essential characteristics of ling honey. 

Sandy, hilly districts are liable to be easily affected by drought 
in dry seasons, when only the heather in the low lying areas may 
yield. In wet seasons the reverse may apply, the plants on the 
drier well-drained slopes yielding better than those in the low 
lying boggy situations. It may well be, therefore, that the optimum 
conditions for heather honey production in the south differ 
radically from those in the different, more moist, climate of 

Heavy rain will put a temporary check to the nectar flow in 
heather, as is the case with many other honey plants. A belief is 
held in some of the heather districts of Germany and Norway that 
lightning or thunder will immediately put a stop to the nectar 
flow in heather and that it will not be resumed until fresh flowers 
have opened. It is well known that bees are often cross and bad 



tempered when working on the heather. Can this be due to 
sudden cessations in the nectar flow not normally apparent to the 

Heather honey is considered a bad winter food for bees and 
prone to cause dysentery owing to its high protein content or the 
large amount of pollen it contains, which accumulates in the in- 
testine and cannot always be voided during the cold months. This 
has been definitely proved to be the case in Scotland (22). Many 
beekeepers in the south of England, however, including the writer, 
who have made use of heather areas for furnishing winter stores, 
have not experienced this trouble. Possibly the reason is that in 
the south, where winters are so much milder than in Scotland, a 
sufficient number of mild days occur during the average winter to 
enable bees to take the necessary cleansing flights and so excrete 
the pollen or pollen remains before they accumulate unduly. The 
protein content of good ling honey varies from i '3 to i *8 per cent 
whereas with ordinary honeys the figure is usually about "2 per 
cent (30). 

Losses of bees in being taken to and from the heather and in 
failing to locate their new sites on heather have been shown to be 
greater than is generally supposed. The advantages and increased 
honey yields likely to be obtained from establishing permanent 
apiaries on the heather, where this is possible, have also been 
shown by Tinslcy (22) to be very great. 

Heather honey has many characteristics which distinguish it 
from other honeys and place it in a class by itself. By many it is 
considered the best of all honeys and is much sought after, com- 
manding a higher price than other honey. Some people do not 
care for it or its strong flavour. This is particularly the case among 
those unaccustomed to it or always used to the light, mild flavoured 
honeys. It is appreciated most as comb honey, the cappings of 
which are usually white. Being too thick and glutinous (or thixo- 
tropic) to be extracted by ordinary rotary extractors, presses are 
used to obtain 'run' honey. In colour it is some shade of light, dark 
or reddish brown and numerous air bubbles that are introduced 
during pressing remain in it and do not rise to the surface. This 
imparts a distinctive appearance. True heather honey does not 
granulate but admixture with other honey will cause it to do so, 
even that of 'bell heath' (Erica cinerea) which is usually present on 
heather moors; more prevalent perhaps on Scottish moors than 
those in the north of England. The flavour and aroma are very 
distinct and if a pot of good heather honey be opened in a warm 



room the aroma can usually soon be detected. It is this strong 
aroma and flavour that cause some to dislike it. 


The term heath is here used to denote all the true heaths or species 
of Erica as distinct from heather or ling, already dealt with. Five 
heaths occur wild in the British Isles but only two are widely dis- 
tributed or common the so-called purple bell heath or 'bell heather' 
(Erica cinerea) and pink bell heath or cross-leaved heath (E.tetralix). 

The purple bell heath is a good bee plant (Plate 10) and is to 
be found on moors and heathlands in company with ling. Its 
degree of prevalence varies. Sometimes it occurs in a more or less 
pure state, as in Galloway, or only odd patches may be present 
among the ling. It blooms much earlier than ling and its flowers 
are a deeper purple, larger and more handsome. They are crowded 
together in clusters, mainly at the ends of the branches. Their rich 
hue may be detected miles away and it is to them that heathlands 
owe much of their beauty. They are a good source of nectar and 
the bell-shaped corolla is the right length (5 mm.) for the honey 
bee to negotiate. 

In observing the honey bee at work on flowers of bell heath one 
observer (J. T. Powell, Journal of Botany Z,., 1884, p. 278) states: 
'On July 28th, near Sandringham, I watched for some time the 
visits of bees. . . . Apis mellifica was present in great numbers, and 
was doing its work in beneficial fashion. I noticed, however, that 
it also took advantage of holes already pierced in the corollas of 
very many of the flowers. Both myself and a botanical friend who 
was with me watched narrowly to see if the honey bee made these 
holes, but in no case did we observe them do so. We also saw 
numerous humble bees busy with the same flowers, which they 
visited in both the above ways. Presently we saw a Bombus pierce 
a sound corolla, and afterwards several other insects of the same 
kind repeated the operation. The action was rather boring than 
biting, and was comparable to pushing an awl without twisting 
through a thin deal board. In some cases a distinct sound was 
heard, as when paper is pricked with a pin. . . . The advantage to 
both bees of the perforation seemed to be that they could sip their 
sweets in greater comfort in the nearly erect position they assumed 
during their illegitimate visits than when turned half-over and 
hanging sideways to insert their tongues into the mouth of the 
Bower; and this comfort seems to be a sufficient motive for the 
exercise of intelligence in the humble bee.' 



Honey is frequently obtained from bell heath either pure or 
mixed with that of ling. When pure it is of a reddish port wine 
colour with a distinctive or pronounced flavour which resembles 
somewhat heather honey. Some prefer it to ling but others do not 
rate it very highly. It is dense but not sufficiently so to prevent 
removal from the combs with an ordinary extractor as is the case 
with ling. As the plant flowers so much earlier than ling it may 
be in flower in June in the south it is often possible to obtain it 
in a pure or relatively pure state. Later on in the year of course 
it is always blended with that of ling. Bell heath honey is not the 
best of winter foods for bees, being inclined to granulate in the 
comb, but does not cause dysentery as ling may do. 

Cross-leaved heath (E.tetralix) with its leaves characteristically 
arranged in fours in the form of a cross, and its drooping clusters 
of pale pink, wax-like flowers, is also common on heathlands. How- 
ever, it is of doubtful value as a bee plant, the flower tubes being 
on the long side (7-8 mm.) for honey bees. In the neighbourhood 
of Bagshot Heath, where the plant is common, the writer has a 
small out-apiary but has never observed bees working this heath. 
Flowers with the corolla tubes punctured at the base, however, 
have been seen. 

In parts of Cornwall the Cornish heath (E.vagans) is common 
and beekeepers have obtained surplus from it (Bee Craft, Nov. 
1935). The honey resembles that of bell heath rather than ling in 
that it is not thick or jelly-like, i.e. is not thixotropic (30). Irish 
heath (E.mediterraned) occurs wild only in the west of Ireland al- 
though common in southern Europe and cultivated in gardens. It 
is well worked for nectar at Kew in June. 

The numerous garden forms of heath that are so much admired 
are for the most part good bee plants, having been mainly derived 
from the wild species already mentioned. It is possible to make a 
selection so that some will be in flower at all times of the year 
including the early spring. The majority are much relished by 
bees. Varieties of Erica carnea and E.darleyensis which are in flower 
in March are particularly noticeable in this respect. Beds of the 
former at Kcw, especially 'Springwood White' and 'King George', 
have been observed on bright sunny days in March covered with 
bees all feverishly working for nectar. Among the later (August- 
September) flowering heaths the writer has noticed about three 
dozen different varieties at Kew and in the fine heath collection 
at the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley (Surrey) 
that are visited by hive bees for nectar. There are doubtless 



many more. These were mainly forms of E.cinerea and E.vagans. 
The pollen of the heaths, like that of ling, is characteristic, for it 
is in the form of a tetrad. 


The flowers of all the tree fruits grown in Britain are most useful 
to the beekeeper for brood rearing if not for surplus honey, their 
nectar and pollen being available early in the year. Sometimes 
honey is obtained from them in good districts in favourable 
seasons. These tree fruits include apple, pear, cherry, plum, quince, 
medlar, peach and nectarine, the two last mentioned as wall plants 
as a rule, and only in the milder parts of the country. The only 
two fruit trees of no avail to the honey bee are the mulberry and 
the fig. The apple and the cherry are the most valuable as nectar 

Soft or berry fruits are a useful minor source of nectar and to a 
less extent of pollen. They include the raspberry, blackberry, 
loganberry, various hybrid berries, gooseberry, currants, and 
strawberries. Of these the raspberry is the best honey producer. 
(See separate headings in Section 3.) 

APPLE Malus pumila: Rosaceae (Plate 12) 

Without question the apple is the most popular and widely cul- 
tivated fruit in Britain. This applies also to many other temperate 
or warm temperate countries. The number of varieties known to 
cultivation is almost endless and new ones continually appear. 
They range in size from crab apples and small russets to giant 
'cookers' like 'Rev. Wilks' and others. However, it is the apple 
blossom rather than the fruit itself that is of primary concern to 
the beekeeper. Few sights can equal an apple orchard in full bloom 
in the spring such as one sees in Kent and the West Country in 
cider districts. 

It has long been held by British beekeepers that the apple is the 
best of the tree fruits as a source of nectar and honey, being su- 
perior to pear, plum and cherry. It is the last of these fruits to 
flower, and is therefore more likely to meet the warmer weather 
as the season advances. Flowering commences some time in April 
or May, according to season and district, and when stocks are 
sufficiently strong and weather favourable surplus honey may be 
obtained. The honey is generally light amber in colour and of 
good density and flavour. Colour varies with seasons and locality 



and may be quite dark. The flavour is inclined to be strong at 
first, but this passes off with age and it remains pleasantly aro- 
matic. It granulates in time, but not rapidly. The great value of 
the apple flow is to the bees themselves, for not only is it a good 
stimulus to brood rearing and raising bees for the main flow, but 
it enables them to store for the lean period of three weeks or so 
immediately prior to the main honey flow of clover or lime, com- 
mencing in the latter part of June. In so many districts there is 
little nectar coming in at this critical period. 

Fortunately there is a good deal of difference in the times when 
the various varieties of apple commence to flower as much as 
three or even four weeks. In most seasons individual trees are in 
blossom for only about a fortnight, but the fact that several vgjrie- 
ties of apple are to be found in most districts ensures a fairly long 
total flowering period. Although spells of cold or wet weather are 
not uncommon at this early period of the year, bees are generally 
able to collect appreciable quantities of nectar for their own use if 
not for their owner. That the owner's turn does not come round 
more often than about one year in five seems to be the expeiience 
of the rank and file of beekeepers. Those in special fruit districts 
may do better. With good management section honey is sometimes 
obtained from the apple flow. 

In forward seasons apples may be in flower at the end of March, 
but in the case of a late spring there may not be any blossom until 
the end of April or early May in the same district. Weather con- 
ditions in early March, whether warm or cold, have an important 
bearing on speeding up or retarding flowering. Apple varieties are 
fairly constant in their flowering periods relative to one another. 
Among the first varieties to flower are Red Astrachan, St. Ed- 
mund's Russet, Irish Peach, Golden Spire, Rev. Wilks, Yellow 
Newton, Ribston Pippin, and Adam's Pearmain. Varieties with 
mid-season flowering include Stirling Castle, Bramley's Seedling, 
Peasgood Nonsuch, Allington Pippin, Charles Ross, Lane's Prince 
Albert and Worcester Pearmain. Among the latest varieties to 
flower are Crawley Pippin, Royal Jubilee, Mother, and King's 
Acre Pippin. The kind of stock used is known to influence the time 
of flowering to some extent. 

Apple blossoms vary a good deal in colouring and in size. In 
some varieties the flowers are pure white, as in Christmas-, Clay- 
gate-, and Worcester Pearmain; in others pinkish, such as Lord 
Suffield, Brownlees Russet, Orleans Reinette, and Crawley Beauty; 
while not a few are richly marked with red or crimson as in Bram- 



ley's Seedling, James Grieve, Grenadier, King's Acre Pippin, and 
Lord Derby. 

The apple flower, like that of many other Rosaceous fruits, is of 
the open type and the nectar very liable to be washed out by rain 
or severely diluted by dew. When dilution reaches a certain point 
the nectar ceases to be attractive to the honey bee. This may be the 
reason why bees are sometimes to be seen in the earlier part of 
the day working apple blossom for pollen only. Later, when the 
nectar has had time for its sugar concentration to be increased 
through evaporation and further secretion from the nectary, bees 
may again be seen working for nectar. 

Crab apples and flowering crabs (of the single type) are prob- 
ably of about the same value as bee plants as arc the culinary 
sorts. They are well worked for both nectar and pollen. The wild 
crab apple of Britain is often to be seen in oak woods in the south 
of England. 

Apple pollen is produced abundantly and is pale yellow in 
colour with a slight greenish tinge when packed in the pollen 
baskets of the worker bee. 

PEAR Pyrus communis: Rosaceae 

The pear is one of the four important tree fruits of Britain, and 
ranks with the apple, plum and cherry. With them it is of value 
to the beekeeper as a source of nectar and pollen early in the 
season for strengthening and building up stocks for the main honey 
flow. The pear is in general less hardy than the apple and is often 
grown on walls. It is not grown on the extensive scale that is 
sometimes the case with the apple. Generally it is to be found in 
mixed orchards with other fruits. For this reason pear honey is 
more or less unknown in Britain. 

As a nectar or honey producer the pear has always been re- 
garded as inferior to the apple, even in the early or 'skeppist' days 
of beekeeping. Work on the sugar concentration of nectar or fruit 
blossom in more recent years confirms this view, for the average 
concentration of pear nectar has often been found to be consider- 
ably lower than that of apples in flower at the same time in the 
same area. Some varieties of pear in fact have a very low nectar 
concentration, and there are times when bees visit the blossoms 
only for pollen, while other fruit trees in the same area are being 
visited for nectar. 

Pear blossoms have a distinctive odour not unlike hawthorn and 
vary in size and shape in different varieties of pear. In some they 



are more or less bell-shaped, and in others spread out flat with 
little protection from rain. It usually takes from five to seven days 
for all the anthers in a flower to open and liberate their pollen. 
The pollen is pale or greenish yellow in colour and almost iden- 
tical with that of the apple and not crimson as stated in some bee 
books, where confusion has obviously arisen with the unopened 
reddish brown anthers! 

Most varieties of pear commence to bloom ahead of the apple, 
but like the apple the date of the appearance of the first pear 
blossoms varies from year to year according to the earliness or 
lateness of the season. In most years in the south-eastern districts 
flowering is at its zenith between the middle and the end of April. 
The total period of blossoming with pears is not so long as with 
apples. Some varieties like Vicar of Winkfield, Louis Bonne of 
Jersey flower early. Others such as Doyenne du Cornice, Glou 
Morceau arid Catillac arc late flowering. The same order of 
flowering with different varieties is maintained whatever the sea- 
son. Individual pear trees remain in blossom from ten to twenty- 
one days, according to variety and weather during flowering. Low 
temperatures naturally tend to extend the flowering period (Journal 
of Pomology, 1943, 107-10). 

PLUM Prunus domestica: Rosaceae 

Plums are the hardiest and the most heavy yielding of stone 
fruits. They are widely cultivated throughout the country. The 
number of different varieties runs into hundreds. Some are of such 
long standing in Britain that their source of origin is now unknown. 
However, a large number of well-known varieties are believed to 
have been introduced from France at some time or other. 

Many plum varieties, probably about a third, are self-sterile, 
and the question of cross-pollination and the insect agents respon- 
sible becomes of great importance. Bumble bees and honey bees 
are normally the most numerous visitors to the blossoms and are 
believed to account for most of the pollination. Whether bumble 
bees predominate or not depends upon the surroundings. If these 
consist mainly of arable land, which is unsuited for the nesting of 
wild bees, hive bees may be the most frequent visitors, but if rough 
land such as commons, numerous hedgerows or woods prevail, 
providing good breeding conditions for bumble bees, they are 
liable to outnumber the honey bee visitors. 

Like the fruits themselves, the blossoms of plums exhibit a good 
deal of variation in size among different varieties. Some varieties 



also flower much earlier than others. The cherry plum or red 
myrobalan (P.cerasifera), perhaps hardly a plum in the accepted 
sense, is the first to flower and is generally ahead of the others by 
many weeks. Among the true plums, Grand Duke, Monarch, 
Jefferson, Early Rivers, and Coe's Golden Drop flower early. Late 
flowering kinds include Belle de Louvain, Kentish Bush, Pond's 
Seedling, and Gisborne's. Intermediate in flowering are Victoria, 
Czar, Pershore, and many of the gages. There is generally a differ- 
ence of about three weeks between the blossoming of the earliest 
and the late varieties. The duration of flowering is usually two to 
three weeks or rather more, depending on weather conditions, but 
varieties vary in this respect also. 

In most years early to mid-April finds most varieties in flower. 
Blossoms appear before the leaves and the life of each individual 
flower, from the opening of the bud until the petals fall, is about 
a week. The blossoms of some varieties of plum have more scent 
than others. Hive bees generally show a preference for plum blos- 
som over that of pear and currant, when able to exercise a choice. 

The pollen of the plum is similar to that of the cherry, but the 
individual grains are much larger. 

CHERRY Prunus cerasus: Rosaceae 

Chenies belong to the same genus as the almond and plum, and 
the flower structure is similar. The honey bee plays an important 
part in the pollination of the cherry, particularly in the large com- 
mercial orchards, where wild bees are rarely sufficiently prevalent 
so early in the year to carry out the task adequately. In the large 
cherry orchards of Kent it is a regular practice for owners to make 
special arrangements with beekeepers to have hives placed among 
the trees at blossoming time. Skeps of bees were at one time im- 
ported from Holland for this purpose. 

In return for its services the bee gets both pollen and nectar in 
plenty from the blossoms when the weather is favourable. As a 
nectar producer the cherry is considered to be second only to the 
apple among fruit trees. To obtain surplus honey from the cherry 
nectar flow, stocks must usually be artificially stimulated to obtain 
the necessary strength, and weather conditions during the rela- 
tively short flowering period are of course vital. Flowering takes 
place in April or early May as a rule in the south of England. 

In most parts of the country cherry trees are only sufficiently 
abundant to constitute a useful minor nectar source, and to be 
valuable in building up colony strength for the main flow later in 


the year. In combination with other fruit trees, however, they help 
to supply the yields of 'tree honey' that are obtained in so many 
parts of the country in favourable seasons. 

The wild cherries such as the bird cherry (Prunus padus) and the 
gean (P.avium) that are so conspicuous in spring in many areas, 
are of similar value to the honey bee. The bird cherry is common 
in the north (hagberry of the Scotch) while the gean is often abun- 
dant in the woods on limestone soils in the south, especially on the 

The flowering or Japanese cherries (with single blossoms) now 
so extensively planted in gardens and as street trees, are similar as 
bee plants and are well worked for nectai and pollen. One of the 
earliest is Prunus yedoensis which never fails to attract with its dense 
masses of snow-white blossom. 

Morello cherries differ from eating or sweet cherries in flower 
characters in addition to the fruit but are also good sources of 
nectar and pollen. They flower later and are self-fertile, whereas 
varieties of sweet cherry are largely self-sterile and require cross 
pollination with another variety in order to set fruit. 


Onobrychis saliva: Leguminosae 

Sainfoin was introduced to this country as a fodder plant in 
about the middle of the seventeenth century from the Continent, 
where it had long been grown. It is still much grown in France and, 
in fact, in most parts of Europe where chalk soils abound. It is a 
perennial with a deep penetrating tap-root and so is not very 
dependent upon surface moisture and able to withstand drought 
well. As a nectar plant is it reliable and a good source of honey 
wherever it is grown. 

In England the cultivation of sainfoin is largely confined to chalk 
districts of the south, the three main centres being the Cotswold 
Hills, Hampshire and adjoining counties, and East Anglia. It is 
also grown to some extent, alone or in mixtures, in Kent, Sussex, 
Buckinghamshire, and the Vale of Glamorgan. Although the crop 
is best suited for chalk and will thrive where there is only a thin 
soil layer over chalk it will grow in other soils provided they are 
not acid and drainage is good. It is much grown as pasture for 
sheep and for hay, being one of the best hay crops. 

Two main sorts of sainfoin are cultivated, 'common sainfoin' 
and 'giant sainfoin', although agriculturalists distinguish three or 



four varieties of the former. Common sainfoin is the longer-lived 
plant but usually only flowers once in the season and provides only 
one 'cut', whereas giant sainfoin, a larger plant, gives two or three 
'cuts' and will flower two or three times. It is the better plant from 
the honey producer's point of view. The best time to cut the plant 
for hay is about .half- way through the flowering period, but often 
there is delay for one reason or another which is to the beekeeper's 
advantage if not the farmer's! When grown for seed of course 
flowering runs its full course. The first flowering of sainfoin usually 
takes place in the last week in May, the flow lasting about ten 
days or a fortnight. This is a good time, for it tides the beekeeper 
over the period between fruit blossom and white clover. 

The flowers of sainfoin are a rosy pink colour and a field in full 
bloom is a pleasing sight. As soon as the first sign of colour appears 
in a field, that is when the first flower at the bottom of the flower 
head has opened, bees will be found at work collecting nectar and 
pollen. Honey bees will neglect other nectar sources as soon as 
sainfoin becomes available. The flowers secrete nectar freely and 
will continue to secrete even when temperatures are quite low. 
The mechanism of the flower and the secretion of nectar is the 
same as in white and sweet clover. 

Sainfoin honey is one of the few honeys that are obtained in 
Britain in anything like a pure or unmixed state. It is also a very 
distinctive type of honey, being deep yellow in colour, bright, and 
with a characteristic flavour and aroma. When freshly gathered in 
the hive the aroma is not pleasant but this unpleasantness soon 
disappears (9). The density is not so good as that of white clover 
as a rule. Most people like the honey and consider it a luxury but 
some do not care for the flavour. Not a few consider it superior to 
any other English honey. 

The wax of combs built during a sainfoin flow is a beautiful pale 
yellow in colour. The woodwork of hives and the frames them- 
selves are also prone to become stained yellow. This is attributed 
to oil in the pollen clinging to particles of propolis on the bees' 
feet and so getting on to the woodwork, the brownish yellow pollen 
of sainfoin being of an exceptionally oily nature. 


These two plants, well known to the agriculturist, the one as 
a farm crop and the other as a weed, are here grouped together 
for they are of similar value to the beekeeper, yield a similar. 


characteristic type of honey and are closely allied botanically. 

MUSTARD Brassica nigra y B. alba: Cruciferae 

Two distinct kinds of mustard are grown for seed in Britain for 
the preparation of the national condiment. These are black or 
brown mustard (B.nigra) and white or yellow mustard (B.alba], 
the latter with a larger and paler coloured seed. Both are equally 
good as nectar yielders and fields in flower yield a copious 

Black mustard needs a deep, moist, fertile soil to produce good 
crops of seed and is mainly grown in the rich fenlands and alluvial 
marshlands of East Anglia, where good crops of honey are some- 
times obtained from it. Beekeepers in Lincolnshire, Cambridge- 
shire, Huntingdonshire and Norfolk often benefit from it. 

White mustard will succeed under a much wider range of con- 
ditions, both as regards soil and climate. Wherever turnips are 
grown it will succeed. With it there is less loss from shed seed. It is 
also extensively cultivated as a forage crop for sheep and as a 
green manure. In the case of both black and white mustard the 
plants from a single sowing are usually in flower for about a month. 
March, April or early May is the usual time of sowing for a seed 

The honey from mustard is light in colour, bright, and with a 
strong aroma and flavour when fresh inclined to leave a slight 
burning sensation in the mouth (9). Granulation takes place rapidly 
more rapidly than with any other English honey. The honey 
from black mustard is said (23) to be inferior to that from white, 
being more strongly flavoured and granulating with a coarser 

CHARLOCK Brassica arvensis: Cruciferae (Plate 13} 

Although a valuable honey plant, charlock is, at the same time, 
one of the most troublesome and persistent weeds the farmer has 
to contend with. Its bright yellow flowers are all too often con- 
spicuous in cornfields throughout the summer months. Besides re- 
ducing the yield of corn it harbours the organism responsible for 
'finger-and-toe' disease of turnips and other Brassica crops. Seed 
may lie buried in the ground for many years and then suddenly 
germinate when turned up near the surface by the plough. When 
old pasture is ploughed up charlock sometimes appears in abun- 
dance, the seeds having remained dormant in the soil since it was 
last farmed as 'arable'. Charlock has in fact been termed a follower 



of the plough. In some cases it takes command of fallow fields, 
when the beekeeper's joy becomes the farmer's sorrow. Other local 
or country names for charlock are karlik, garlock, cadlock, corn 
mustard, wild mustard, etc. 

The yellow flowers are produced in great profusion and are the 
same in shape and structure as those of other Brassicas. Six stamens 
are present, four long and two short. Nectar is secreted by nec- 
taries at the base of the flower. Sometimes in charlock only those 
nectaries opposite the short stamens are functional. However, this 
does not seem to affect the total yield of nectar available to the 

The honey from charlock is of excellent quality, being light 
coloured. and of mild flavour. Colour may vary from water white 
to pale amber. When fresh it may have a faint hotness suggesting 
mustard, and leaving a mild burning sensation after tasting, but 
this disappears as the honey ripens. Like honey from mustard the 
most notable feature about charlock honey is the rapidity with 
which it granulates. No other honeys in Britain can compare with 
them in this respect. On exposure to light charlock honey may 
even granulate within three days (9), and often granulates while 
still in the hive. For this reason it should always be extracted with 
little delay. If left in an extractor it may set hard within a few 
days, to the consternation of the owner when he discovers it. 

Its quick setting character is useful when set honey is required 
at short notice. It is also useful for mixing with other liquid honeys 
when granulated honey is required. A small quantity added to 
white clover gives a high grade product, pure white and nearly 


Crataegus monogyna, C.oxyacantha: Rosaceae (Plate 12) 

The Hawthorn, May or Whitethorn is one of our most common 
native shrubs or small trees. Its strongly scented white blossoms 
that appear about the middle of May are familiar to everyone. It 
is far from being a fastidious plant and will grow in sun or shade 
and in all soils except acid peat which it avoids. Often it is the 
only shrub to be seen in pastures, where it sometimes becomes far 
too prevalent for the farmer's liking. Its virtues as a hedge plant 
are well recognized and as a farm hedge or fence plant it stands 

As a bee plant the hawthorn is notoriously fickle, being a good 


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source of nectar in some seasons but not in others or in some dis- 
tricts but not others. Attempts to correlate this with soil or with 
moisture and temperature conditions have not so far met with suc- 
cess and the reasons for this fickleness remain obscure at present. 
The seasons when hawthorn is a good honey source only come 
round at long intervals. In some parts of the country 1943 was a 
good year as were 1911 and 1933 (14). 

Sometimes hawthorn blossoms will be worked well and yield 
honey freely in one area while a mile or two away under appar- 
ently similar conditions the blossoms may be deserted by bees. In 
a district which gives a good hawthorn flow one year the flowers 
for several succeeding years may offer little attraction. When the 
flow from hawthorn does occur it is usually very rapid and the 
smell of the flowers is easily detected in the hives while the nectar 
is being brought in. 

In the hawthorn flower the nectar is secreted by the receptacle 
or base and is half concealed. In cold or dull weather the inner 
stamens remain curved inwards but open out in sunshine exposing 
the nectar more fully. 

There are two species of hawthorn, although the differences 
between them are slight and they seem to be of similar value as 
bee plants. Crataegus monogyna is the more abundant and wide- 
spread species, C.oxyacantha being confined more to the south-east 
of the country. The numerous ornamental forms of May with pink 
or red flowers attract bees when the flowers arc single, but not the 
double forms. So also do the flowers of several introduced species 
of Crataegus, mainly from North America, which are sometimes 
grown in gardens or as street trees. 

Honey from hawthorn is of very high quality. It is usually a 
dark amber in colour, very thick and of an appetizing rich flavour. 
Owing to its dark colour and density it has been mistaken for 
heather honey at honey shows (9). It is not usually bright or 
sparkling and sometimes has a greenish tinge which detracts from 
its appearance. The flavour has been described in various ways, 
although always favourable, such as exquisite, nutty or suggestive 
of almond. 

Usually hawthorn blossoms do not appear until those of apple 
are over but in some seasons flowering overlaps. The resulting 
honey, when procurable, which is a blend of apple and hawthorn, 
is considered to be one of the finest flavoured that could be desired 
(Tickner Edwardes). 

The pale whitish pollen of hawthorn is freely collected by bees 

F 81 


and is often found in honey. The individual grain is similar, micro- 
scopically, to that of apple and rose. 


Acer pseudoplatanus: Aceraceae 

Although not really a native of Britain the sycamore is now so 
widespread, thanks to its wind-borne seeds and the ease with which 
it propagates itself, as to be considered a wild tree. In some of the 
beechwoods of the South Downs it is almost as common as the 
beech itself. The hanging bunches of greenish yellow flowers ap- 
pear in the latter part of May in most years in the south and only 
last for two to three weeks, the flowering period being a short one. 
However, they are a good source of nectar and held in high esteem 
by beekeepers for their value in stimulating and building up stocks 
for the main honey flow later in the year. 

The sycamore flowers later than its relatives the maples (see 
Maple). Usually it follows close on the heels of the apple in flower- 
ing, but in some years the two flower more or less together, which 
is then unfortunate from the beekeeper's point of view for they are 
probably of greater value for stimulative purposes when they 
flower separately. Surplus honey is obtained from sycamore in 
some parts of the country in favourable seasons (9). It is usually 
amber in colour with a greenish tinge, the green colour being pos- 
sibly due to honeydew which is common on the leaves of this tree. 
When fresh the flavour of the honey is not of the best, even 'rank' 
in the estimation of some, but this mellows down with age. Doubt- 
less the flavour as well as the colour is often adversely affected by 
honeydew. Density is generally fair and granulation slow with a 
coarse grain. 

The flowers of the sycamore, which are about the size of currant 
blossoms, are arranged in groups of three in long pendant racemes. 
Usually the centre flower is perfect and develops into the seed while 
the two lateral ones are male only. They have longer stamens and 
abortive ovaries. The winged seeds germinate with great facility and 
seedlings may be seen comifig up in all manner of unexpected places. 

The sycamore is well suited for cultivation near the sea where 
it withstands salt sea breezes and maintains an erect position better 
than almost any other tree. In favourable situations it may attain 
large dimensions, trees over 100 feet high and twenty feet in girth 
having been recorded in Britain. There are many garden forms 
with coloured or variegated leaves. 



The sycamore has long been a favourite tree in Scotland, prob- 
ably on account of its hardiness and rapid growth, and has been 
much planted around country mansions as well as around farm- 
houses and cottages on bleak hillsides. In Scotland it is generally 
known as 'plane tree'. 'Great maple' is another name for it. In the 
south the tree grows with equal facility and is often planted in 
windy and exposed situations. Its numerous branches and its large 
leaves render it a suitable subject where shade is required. It may 
be seen on farms affording shade for livestock or on the sunny side 
of farm dairies. As an ornamental tree it is grown either singly or 
in groups of two or three. It is also effective in avenues, given 
sufficient room. The litter from its large leaves in autumn is one 
of its drawbacks, especially in built-up areas. Almost any soil is 
suited for the sycamore provided drainage is adequate but the tree 
prefers a dry, free soil to one that is stiff and moist. In spite of its 
rapid growth it requires several years before it commences to flower 
and to ripen its seeds. 

In many of the wooded mountainous parts of Europe the syca- 
more is truly wild or indigenous. This includes areas covered by 
the Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathians, and the hilly districts that radiate 
from them. 


Rubusfruticosus: Rosaceae (Plate 75) 

Blackberries are useful bee plants whether they be the common 
bramble of the hedgerow and field, or one of the cultivated varieties 
grown in the garden or fruit farm. Flowering takes place late into 
the summer and provides nectar and pollen at a time when they 
are becoming scarce in many areas. Wild blackberries generally 
commence to flower in June or July, reaching a peak in August, 
but continue until cold weather and frosts arrive. In the case of the 
cultivated kinds, which may be grown on extensive or orchard 
lines in fruit districts, the time of flowering depends upon the 
variety grown whether early or late. 

The wild blackberry grows and flowers freely in almost any soil 
whether chalk, poor acid sand, rich alluvium, or clay soils and 
never fails to be a source of attraction to the honey bee. It is one 
of the commonest of wild plants and is to be found in all parts of 
the country. It is very abundant in hedges, often in company with 
the dog rose, along roadsides and in fields and meadows. In the 
scrub of commons and heaths and on waste land it may be very 



prevalent and form dense clumps up to ten feet high and more 
across. It also occurs in the undergrowth of woods but is not so 
happy in shade and does not flower so freely as when growing in 
the open. 

The common blackberry has a wide distribution. It occurs over 
nearly the whole of Europe (including Russia) and in central Asia 
and North Africa but nowhere does it extend to the high altitudes. 
In the British Isles it is particularly abundant. It has become 
naturalized in many other countries, even to the extent of becom- 
ing a troublesome weed, as in New Zealand. 

The flowers of the blackberry are produced on the long main 
shoots or short lateral ones, generally very freely and over a long 
period. It is common to see flower buds, flowers, green, half ripe, 
and ripe fruits present at the same time, which adds greatly to the 
plant's attractiveness. This long flowering period, which may ex- 
tend over several months, is largely what makes the plant of such 
value to the beekeeper. 

There are many different forms or varieties of the wild black- 
berry throughout Britain and various classifications have been put 
forward for them. The fact that all appear to be useful as bee 
plants is what primarily concerns the practical beekeeper. Several 
wild forms or varieties with especially good fruits have been intro- 
duced to cultivation from time to time. The flower colour of the 
wild plants varies, often from district to district, although white is 
the predominating colour. In some plants the flowers are light pink 
or tinged with pink, in others they may be pale mauve or lavender. 
The flowers also vary in their size and in their grouping. However, 
all arc conspicuous by reason of their outspread character. The 
stamens also spread outwards as they ripen their pollen. Nectar is 
produced by a circular or disc-like nectary and is easily reached 
by the honey bee. Other visitors to the flowers include butterflies, 
wasps, beetles and flies. 

In some heathland areas or on the margins of heaths in the south 
of England where blackberries are a prominent feature of the scrub 
vegetation and there is no other important honey flow until 
heather is out, beekeepers consider that what honey they may ob- 
tain before the heather flow is mainly blackberry. Such honey is 
usually of fair quality although pure blackberry honey is not con- 
sidered to be of the best and to be somewhat coarse in flavour. 
Pure blackberry honey is probably rarely obtained in Britain, 
except possibly in the case of hives near extensive blackberry 
plantations. It is dense and slow to granulate. Whatever the flavour 




1 2' 







M a/its 


PLATE i a. Fruit and May arc to the 


may be this does not detract from its value to the bees as winter 
stores and it is here that the usefulness of the blackberry to the 
beekeeper mainly lies. As a honey plant, however, the blackberry 
is inferior to its close ally the raspberry, which yields a finer honey. 

The cultivation of the blackberry on a large or field scale in 
Britain has only taken place in comparatively recent times, but the 
fruit is now grown quite extensively for market or for jam making 
in some districts. 

In the earlier days of beekeeping the tough wiry stems of the 
blackberry, with the thorns removed, were not infrequently used 
in binding the straw in making skeps. They were also much used 
in binding thatch. 


Epilobium angustifolium: Onagraceae (Plate n) 

The rose-bay willow-herb is one of the best of the wild bee plants 
of Britain and not infrequently yields surplus honey to beekeepers 
who are fortunate enough to be in areas where extensive stands of 
the plant exist. With its spikes of large pink flowers that appear 
from July onwards it is one of the most conspicuous and handsome 
of wild plants and a wide expanse of it on the landscape is always 
a pretty sight. It is frequently among the first plants to appear 
where fires have been, hence the name 'firewecd' often applied to 
it. Where heath or woodland fires have taken place it often grows 
in great profusion. Even on bombed sites in the heart of London 
it was one of the first plants to appear, the seeds being extremely 
light and easily carried many miles by the wind. Where woodland 
has been cut down it may also be very common for a year or two. 

Unfortunately for the beekeeper the willow-herb does not re- 
main a dominant plant but becomes ousted by other plants in 
time. It is therefore of passing value only in most localities. War 
periods with increased felling of woodland, burning of brushwood, 
etc., have witnessed a great increase in its prevalence. The name 
c willow-herb* is of course due to the resemblance of the plant, be- 
fore flowering, to a young willow shoot, the leaves being very 
similar. In parts of Canada the same willow-herb has covered ex- 
tensive tracts of country in the past, after forest fires or timber 
felling operations. Large crops of honey have been obtained from 
such areas. In British Columbia average yields of 100 Ib. per hive 
from willow-herb are not uncommon. So common has the plant 
been in Canada that in autumn its thistle-like seed down may be 



everywhere in some areas, even choking up porch screens and meat 
safes (Bee World, 1923, 55). 

In Britain the willow-herb is widespread and patches of it are a 
common sight along roadsides, around rubbish heaps and on the 
slag heaps of mining and industrial areas where it thrives in a 
remarkable fashion. Its creeping underground stems, which may 
ramify up to thirty feet, enable it to increase rapidly apart from 
seeds and it can become a troublesome weed in gardens, wanting 
the whole place to itself. The first flowers to open are at the bottom 
of the flowering spike. By the time those at the top are ready to 
open seed pods will have ripened at the bottom and other sub- 
sidiary flowering shoots have been formed. Thus flower buds, 
flowers and seeds may be present on the same plant. It therefore 
has a long flowering season and is capable of giving a prolonged 
honey flow when sufficiently abundant. When it occurs on burned 
over heathland it is sometimes looked upon as a nuisance by 
heather beekeepers, as its presence is likely to result in a blended 
rather than a true heather honey, and it is pure heather honey that 
always commands the highest price. 

The honey from willow-herb is very pale in colour, sometimes 
water white and of good density but without any very distinctive 
flavour. Some consider it almost flavourless although very sweet. 
It is valuable for blending with dark and strong flavoured honeys. 
Granulation takes place with a fine grain and is not long delayed 
as a rule. Wax or comb built while bees are working willow-herb 
is very pale in colour (14). 

Pollen is produced abundantly by willow-herb and is always dis- 
tinctive when brought in by the bees, owing to its blue colour. The 
pollen grains are usually bound together by threads of viscin and 
are fairly large (70 microns). 

Other wild species of Epilobium attract bees but are not usually 
sufficiently common to interest the beekeeper. The hairy willow- 
herb (EMrsutwri) is sometimes prevalent in patches by streams and 
ditches and may be visited for nectar and pollen. 


Viciafaba: Leguminosae 

The beans in general cultivation in Britain are of four main 
types: (i) the field or horse bean a farm crop; (2) the closely 
allied broad bean of the vegetable garden; (3) the French or kid- 
ney bean; and (4) the ubiquitous scarlet runner bean. Other beans 



have been grown such as the soy bean and the lima bean, but only 
on experimental lines, not being well suited to the climate. 

The field or horse bean ( Viciafaba), known also as tick or maza- 
gan bean, is far and away the most important to the beekeeper, 
being so extensively grown throughout the country. Good crops of 
honey arc obtained from it. It is essentially a crop for heavy land 
and is either spring or autumn sown. Time of flowering depends on 
sowing and on the variety grown. The size and colour of the 
flowers also depends upon variety, some having the side petals of 
the flowers heavily marked with velvety black. In others the flowers 
are tinged with red. The size of flower may be important in deter- 
mining to what extent the honey bee is able to work the flowers in 
the legitimate sense instead of having to rely on the holes made by 
bumble bees at the base of the flower in order to obtain nectar. 
This takes place to a large extent in the field bean. The fact that 
bean pollen is always found in bean honey indicates that the 
flowers must be worked in the orthodox manner. The flowers are 
pleasantly scented and a field of beans in full bloom will scent the 
air on a still day. In good weather honey may be stored in quantity 
from this crop, and those beekeepers that have access to it in 
addition to the usual later flows are indeed fortunate. The honey 
varies from light to dark amber in colour and has a pleasant mild 
flavour. It is inclined to granulate fairly quickly with a coarse 

The 'broad beans' of the vegetable garden are little more than 
selected forms of the field bean and are of much the same value as 
bee plants except that they are usually grown on a small scale and, 
furthermore, often heive larger flowers. Extra floral nectaries occur 
as dark spots on the under side of the leaf bases or stipules. These 
secrete nectar produced in sunny but not in dull weather which 
is eagerly sought by ants. 

Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus mulliflorus) possess flowers rather 
too large for the hive bee to negotiate successfully. Here again 
bumble bee holes at the base of the flower are often available. It 
is said that when grown as a field crop and the plants pinched 
back, the size of the flower is reduced and honey bees are able to 
work them properly. This is stated to occur especially in the Isle of 
Wight where surplus has been obtained (9). 

The French or kidney bean and the haricot beans sometimes 
grown, have a similar type of flower to the runner bean and are 
not well adapted to the honey bee. Soy beans are of little or no 
value as honey plants. This has been proved in recent years in the 


United States where the crop has been grown over a wide area 
and has become of great importance. The lima bean, however, 
which is much grown in warmer climates, may yield good crops 
of honey. 


Fagopyrum esculenlum: Polygonaceae 

Buckwheat is extensively grown as a grain crop in many parts 
of the world, but in Britain it has never been cultivated to much 
extent. It is essentially a crop for light land and refuses to thrive 
on heavy clay soils. The poorest of sandy or light acid soils of the 
hcathland type will often grow a fair crop when all other grains 
are out of the question. This is the great value of buckwheat, along 
with its remarkable freedom from pests and diseases. It is even 
superior to rye in this respect, and accounts for the German name 
'heidenkorn' (heath corn) applied to it. 

In Britain buckwheat is best known and most frequently seen in 
Norfolk and Suffolk, and the fen areas, where it is usually called 
'brank'. It is often used as a catch crop where, for some reason, it 
has not been possible to get ground ready in time for the intended 
crop or when a cereal sowing has failed. Its early maturity is then 
of special value. Buckwheat is often used for game coverts through- 
out the country to attract pheasants and other game birds. It is 
also sometimes used in plantations to protect the roots of young 
trees from drought and for green manuring. During war-time it 
has been grown more by smallholders as poultry food. 

Buckwheat is one of the few plants that offer possibilities of being 
sown as artificial bee pasturage on an economic basis, the value of 
the resulting grain crop offsetting cultivation costs. It is in those 
parts of the country where sandy acid soils of the heathland type 
prevail that it is likely to show most promise in this respect. In such 
areas clovers and lime trees are usually absent and there may be 
little important bee forage until late in the year when the heather 
is out. As bee fodder three or four successional sowings at fort- 
nightly intervals, commencing in early May or as soon as the dan- 
ger of frost is past, is the best procedure. This ensures a long 
flowering period of two to three months. The young plants are 
very susceptible to frost and may be killed outright by even one 
light late frost. Three main varieties of buckwheat are grown, 
'Silver Hull', 'Common Grey' and 'Japanese', the last mentioned 
being the tallest. Sowing is usually done in drills twelve to eighteen 
inches apart. 



The value of buckwheat as a honey crop is well known, large 
quantities of honey being obtained from it in some countries as in 
the north-eastern United States, Russia and other parts of Europe. 
It is much grown in Brittany. The honey is always dark and of 
characteristic strong flavour, not usually appreciated by those un- 
accustomed to it or used to light, mild flavoured honeys. It is also 
generally thick and difficult to extract. Buckwheat honey, how- 
ever, is always in demand in the confectionery trade and used for 
special purposes, such as gingerbread, which it helps to keep moist. 
In London it is popular with the Jewish fraternity, many of whom 
are familiar with it in Europe. It crystallizes with a coarse grain. 

The buckwheat plant is of interest in that two distinct types of 
flower may be present, although always on different plants. One 
type has long stamens and short styles and the other short stamens 
and long styles. Dimorphic flowers of this kind are known in other 
plants, e.g. the primrose. They assist in promoting cross pollina- 
tion. Each plant bears only the one form of flower. The white 
flowers are strongly fragrant and white sepals take the place of 
petals. Nectar is secreted by eight, sometimes nine, yellow nec- 
taries bound together by a cushion-like swelling at the base of the 
ovary. The pollen grains in buckwheat are of two sizes according 
to the type of flower they are from. 

Buckwheat does not always secrete nectar freely and the flow 
seems to be closely governed by the weather. Cool, moist conditions 
at flowering time are best for good nectar production. It is then 
that bees work the flowers all day. If the weather is inclined to be 
hot bees are only attracted in the morning, and if very hot and dry 
nectar production may cease altogether and bees pay little atten- 
tion to the plants. In the United States it is known that cool nights 
and a mean temperature during the blooming period that does 
not exceed 70 F. provide the best conditions for nectar secretion 
(see Beekeeping in the Buckwheat Region, U.S. Dept. Agric., Farmers' 
Bull. No. 1216). It has been estimated that an acre of buckwheat 
is capable of supplying 150 Ib. of honey in a season. 


Taraxacum vulgare: Compositae (Plate 18} 

Some may question whether the dandelion should be included 
among the major honey plants of the country. However, it is one 
of the most useful of wild plants to British beekeepers. It occurs 
everywhere and is regularly visited for nectar and pollen. It is to 



be found in flower almost throughout the year, but flowers most 
freely early in the season, before the appearance of fruit blossom, 
when it is of most value to the beekeeper, especially for brood rear- 
ing. It occurs freely in pastures, particularly in chalk districts, 
when fields may be sheets of yellow at flowering time. This is no 
uncommon sight on the Cotswolds and Chilterns and dandelion 
honey has been secured by beekeepers in such areas. 

Dandelion honey varies in density and may be deep or pale 
yellow in colour. It soon crystallizes, doing so with a coarse grain 
(20). The flavour is strong, particularly when fresh, and the odour 
reminiscent of the dandelion flower, but this is lessened on ripen- 
ing. However, those accustomed to mild honeys often do not care 
for its strong flavour (8). 

The pollen of the dandelion is golden yellow but may appear as 
deep orange in the bees' pollen baskets. It is produced very freely 
and the bee is able to gather it from the flowers in lumps so to 
speak. It is somewhat oily and comb built when dandelion is being 
freely worked is a distinctive light yellow colour. The individual 
pollen grain is large and spiny, and is very prevalent in English 

There are between 100 and 200 individual flowers or florets in 
a single dandelion head. The flower tubes vary from 3-7 mm. in 
length and are suitably constructed for the hive bee. At night and 
in dull or wet weather the heads close up. This protects the pollen 
and nectar and prevents it from being spoiled by dew or rain. The 
time of opening of the flowers in the morning varies with the time 
of year and is much earlier in mid summer than in spring or 

When dandelions occur in quantity in or near large orchards 
they can be a nuisance to the fruit grower in that bees will often 
forsake apple or pear blossom in favour of the dandelion flowers, 
to the detriment of the fruit pollination and subsequent yield of 
fruit. Whether it is a richer nectar in the dandelion or whether it 
is the pollen that is preferred does not at present appear to be 

The dandelion is an important bee plant or honey yielder in 
many other countries. In Europe it has been listed as an important 
bee plant for various countries from Spain to Norway. In parts of 
southern Germany it is a common source of honey. The plant has 
become widely naturalised in North America and New Zealand 
where honey is obtained from it and where it is predominantly a 
valuable spring stimulator. 



The so-called Russian dandelions ('Kok Saghyz' Taraxacum 
kok-saghyz, and 'Krim Saghyz' T.megallorhizori) that have been 
considered for rubber and grown experimentally in Britain both 
attract the honey bee freely for nectar and pollen. 

Section 3 




(For ease of reference plants are arranged alphabetically according 

to their common names. In those cases where there is no common 

name in general use the scientific (generic) name is used.) 

ACACIA Robinia pseudoacacia: Leguminosae (Plate /) 

The Acacia, or more correctly False Acacia, also called 
Robinia in France and Locust in its native country (eastern 
U.S.A.), is a well known ornamental and timber tree. It is 
of interest in having been one of the first North American trees to 
be introduced to Britain. This took place as long ago as 1640. It 
has now become established in many other countries, particularly 
southern Europe, and is a valuable honey plant when sufficiently 

In Britain the False Acacia is not such a reliable nectar producer 
as it is in warmer climates or where a hot continental type of 
summer is the rule. When warm sunny weather prevails during 
the flowering period, which usually commences in early or mid- 
June, it is generally well worked and seems to yield nectar freely, 
but in the absence of hot weather offers little attraction to bees. 
The bunches of white flowers are delightfully fragrant and each 
individual flower lasts about a week. Unfortunately the total 
flowering period is short, often not more than a fortnight. The 
tree grows well in poor sandy soils where many other trees would 
fail. Growth is very rapid in the early stages and this, combined 
with its habit of suckering, makes it useful for planting on sandy 
banks to hold the soil. It is common on railway cuttings and 
embankments in many parts of France. 

The tree yields a good honey, but there arc probably few areas 
in Britain where it would be sufficiently abundant to yield surplus 
honey. In many parts of Europe, however, surplus is regularly 
obtained. It is stated (Bee World, 1940, 47) to be very common in 
the Danubian basin in Roumania, being freely grown on farms 


<3 O 


2 o 
























and for timber. It is the source of much honey there which sells at 
a higher price than other honeys. In Czechoslovakia, Italy and 
elsewhere in Europe it also affords substantial honey crops. The 
honey is of a superior type an,d considered by some to be equal to 
that of white clover, being light in colour and with good density 
and flavour. It is slow to granulate. In the United States the tree 
has been freely planted for timber, to the benefit of beekeepers 
nearby, but in that country much injury is often done to the trees 
by borers. 

There are many varieties of the False Acacia in cultivation, 
some with variegated or abnormal leaves. The most interesting 
from the beekeeper's point of view is the 'everblooming Acacia' 
(Robinia pseudoacacia variety semperjlorens) which continues to flower 
more or less throughout the summer and so lacks the main draw- 
back of the common Acacia a short flowering period. This has 
been recommended for planting in waste sandy places, mining 
dumps, etc., on the Continent to improve the honey flow. It has 
the additional advantage of being thornless. 

The nectar in the flower is secreted at the bottom of the staminal 
tube and the wide calyx allows of its being easily reached by the 
honey bee. A single flower has been shown to yield 38*4 mg. of 
nectar during its life with an average sugar concentration of 35 per 
cent (Bee World, 1940, 47). The pollen grains are pale yellow, finely 
granulated, with three distinct grooves. 

The flowers of other species ofRobinia, e.g. the Clammy Locust 
(R.viscosa) and the Rose Acacia (RMspidd) have been observed to 
be visited by honey bees at Kew. 

ACHILLEA Achillea spp.: Compositae 

The Achilleas of the herbaceous border or rock garden are often 
worked by bees, particularly the stronger growing kinds, like A. 
filipendula (Orient), which are best grown in large groups in mixed 
borders or shrubberies. The flowering period of these perennials is 
usually from July to September. 

ACONITE Aconitum napellus: Ranunculaceae 

The common aconite or monkshood is mentioned as a bee plant 
by some writers, but probably in error, the winter aconite (Eranthis 
hyemalis) being intended. See Winter Aconite. 

AGRIMONY Agrimonia eupatoria: Rosaceae 

This wild British plant is sometimes visited by bees for pollen, 


but does not yield nectar. Its familiar yellow flowers have a faint 
odour of lemon and appear in June and July, a time when there 
is an abundance of pollen available from other plants. If the plant 
flowered early or late in the season it would doubtless be more 
freely visited for pollen. 

ALDER Alnus glutinosa: Betulaceae 

Alder is one of the early flowering woodland trees bearing catkins, 
like willow and hazel, that may be a useful source of fresh pollen 
for early brood rearing, provided the weather is warm enough for 
bees to fly and trees are relatively near the hives. The catkins may 
open in February or March. In very early seasons they may even 
open at the end of January. The tree is widely distributed in 
Britain, especially near streams and in damp situations. In the 
wetter parts of the country it is often abundant in oak woods. 
Other European and American alders are also useful for pollen. 

ALLIUM Allium spp.: Liliaceae 

The Alliums of the flower garden, which may have mauve, 
crimson, red or yellow flowers are for the most part visited by bees 
for nectar. Were it not for the strong onion-like odour when 
crushed they would probably be more popular and generally 
grown. The genus Allium also includes important vegetable crops 
such as the onion (A.cepa), leek (A.porrum), chives (A.sckoenoprasum) 
which are good nectar plants, also many wild species such as wild 
garlic and ramsons (A.ursinum) which honey bees freely visit and 
which arc sometimes common in meadows and woods. In some 
areas their presence in the herbage may be a nuisance by causing 
tainting in milk. 

Crops like onions and leeks are of course normally harvested 
before they flower, but when they are grown on a field scale for 
seed, honey may be obtained during the blossoming period. Onion 
honey, which has been obtained on seed farms in California and 
elsewhere, has been described as amber in colour with an onion 
flavour which disappears as soon as the honey is fully ripened (23). 
Probably that of other alliaceous plants would be similar. The 
handsome mauve flowers of chives which are borne in such pro- 
fusion in early summer are worked most assiduously by the honey 
bee both for nectar and pollen. In the case of the leek the large 
flower heads may contain from two to three thousand flowers and 
each head must therefore contribute an appreciable amount of 



The actual secretion of nectar in an Allium flower is of interest. 
It may be secreted at the base of the ovary or by three double 
septal glands situated half-way down the ovary. Nectar is pro- 
duced very freely under favourable conditions. 

ALMOND Prunus amygdalus: Rosaceae (Plate 20) 

In Britain the almond is grown solely as an ornamental or 
flowering tree and not for nuts as in warmer climates. The masses 
of pink blossoms that appear so early in the spring are always a 
pleasing sight to the beekeeper who knows their value to his bees 
for nectar and pollen after the long winter months of confinement. 
At this early season much will depend on weather conditions and 
whether day temperatures are high enough for bees to fly. For- 
tunately there are marked differences in the times when flowering 
commences with the different trees, usually to be found in streets 
and gardens, and this extends the total flowering period. Blossoms 
may be available for three weeks to a month. Usually a number of 
fine or warm days occur during this period, allowing bees to visit 
them. In some years the flowers may be severely damaged by frost. 
In the south of England flowering may take place any time from 
mid-February (as in the early spring of 1943) to early April, de- 
pending on the conditions and the variety of almond grown, that 
known as praecox being one of the earliest. The flowering almonds 
belong to the bitter almond group for the most part and have 
darker coloured flowers than the sweet almonds, which are grown 
for nuts. In these the flowers are generally pale pink or almost 

Nectar secretion in the almond flower is very profuse under 
suitably warm conditions. This may be demonstrated by placing 
a twig of almond blossom in a warm room overnight with the cut 
end in water and a bell jar or inverted vessel of some sort over it 
to maintain a still humid atmosphere. The next day the base of 
the flower will be observed to be swimming in nectar. The nectar 
is first secreted in small droplets on the brown inner surface of the 
cup-shaped 'receptacle'. These increase in size if not sipped away 
by bees or other insects and eventually coalesce so that the base of 
the flower is flooded with nectar. The almond also possesses extra 
floral nectaries on the leaves like the cherry and cherry laurel, 
which are visited mainly by ants and wasps. 

ALYSSUM A.maritimum: Cruciferae 

Sweet Alyssum or madwort, as it was called in olden times, both 



a wild and a garden plant in Britain, is much favoured by bees, its 
white honey scented flowers appearing in July and August. In the 
West Country it is often to be seen on the tops of walls and in dry 
sandy places, where it grows as a perennial. The many garden 
forms with flowers of various colours are grown as annuals. Another 
well-known Alyssum is that called 'Gold Dust' (A.saxatile). It is a 
native of southern Russia and one of the most popular of yellow 
spring flowers. Bees visit the flowers although not zealously, and 
probably mainly for pollen. 

ANCHUSA Anchusa spp.: Boraginaceae (Plate 25) 

Some good bee plants exist among the Anchusas, both wild and 
cultivated. Their blue or purple flowers are worked predominantly 
for nectar. Anchusa italica is perhaps the commonest and best gar- 
den species, reaching three to five feet. If not allowed to seed this 
perennial will flower continuously from June to September. The 
variety 'Dropmore' is one of the most handsome. The Cape An- 
chusa (A.capensis), a much smaller plant but equally favoured by 
bees, may be grown as an annual or biennial. 

Alkanet (A.qfficinalis) and evergreen alkanet (A.sempervirens), 
both natives of southern Europe, are found wild or naturalized in 
many parts of Britain. They are good nectar plants and are recom- 
mended for the wild garden. The latter is quite common on and 
around rubbish heaps at Kew, its sky-blue flowers appearing in 

In alkanet and other Anchusas the nectar is secreted by the four- 
lobed base of the ovary and is concealed in the flower tube by hairs 
near the entrance. This protects it from rain and from short- 
tongued insects. As the tube is about 7 mm. long in alkanet the 
nectar is just within reach of the honey bee. 

ANEMONE Anemone spp.: Ranunculaceae (Plate 16) 

The white flowers of the well-known wood anemone (A.nemorosa) 
appear in early spring, sometimes as early as the middle of March, 
and may be a useful source of pollen. The flowers yield a pale 
coloured pollen in abundance and honey bees may be frequent 
visitors. It has been stated in regard to this plant that 'the honey 
bee not only collects pollen but also sucks, boring with its proboscis 
into the base of the flower, so as to obtain the sap which it requires 
for moistening the pollen' (n). 

Other Anemones may be visited for pollen such as the Pasque 





PLATE 15, very are 

of the 


PLATE 16. and Anemones be 

of pollen 

flower (A.pulsatilla), wild on chalk downs as well as cultivated, also 
the autumn flowering Japanese anemones. 

ANISE HYSSOP Agastache anethiodora: Labiatae 

This name has been used for a North American plant of the mint 
family that has attracted a good deal of attention as a bee plant in 
recent years. It bears heads of pretty mauve flowers and dark 
green leaves. There have been many references to it in the Ameri- 
can bee press (American Bee Journal, 1943, 454). 

The plant was first grown in Britain in 1826, but failed to c take 
on' as a garden plant at that time. Little was heard of it until the 
last few years when it was 'rediscovered' in the United States and 
also grown by some interested persons in the British Isles, includ- 
ing the writer. It is said to have been widely distributed at one 
time from Lake Superior and Manitoba to Nebrasca westward, 
and to have been used as a beverage plant and for seasoning by 
Indian tribes, in the same way that we might use sage. Some of 
the earlier settlers reported fine crops of honey from the plant, the 
honey possessing in some slight degree the same fragrance. The 
flowers are undoubtedly very attractive to honey bees and bumble 
bees for nectar. It ranks high as a bee plant in America and has the 
advantage of a long flowering season from June until frosts arrive. 
Being a perennial and easy to grow and propagate, it is worth a 
place in the bee garden. As a general garden plant, however, its 
apparently straggling habit under British conditions may be 
against it. Furthermore the plants the writer has seen and handled 
have had little or no fragrance in the leaves. This is strange but 
may be due to the different climatic conditions in Britain. 

Other closely related species are known to be good nectar plants, 
especially the giant hyssop of California (Agastache urticifolia] , 
which yields crops of a light coloured, minty flavoured honey, 
slow to granulate. 

ANODA Anoda hastata: Malvaceae 

At Kew this mallow-like plant, which is a native of Mexico, is 
freely worked in the late summer for pollen. It is not in general 

ANTHERIGUM Anthericum spp.: Liliaceae 

These tuberous rooted plants are sometimes seen in gardens and 
are visited by bees. The white flowers of the St. Bernard Lily 
o 97 


(A.liliago), appearing in June and July, and of A.ramosum y may be 
utilized for both nectar and pollen. 

ANTIRRHINUM Antirrhinum majus: Scrophulariaceae 

The common Antirrhinum or snapdragon of the flower garden 
is essentially a bumble bee rather than a honey bee flower. Only 
the former is sufficiently powerful to open the mouth of the flower 
and reach the nectar. However, honey bees and other small bees 
are sometimes able to enter faded flowers and probably secure a 
certain amount of nectar. They are also able to get nectar from 
holes made by other insects near the base of the flower tube when 
these are present. They may also collect pollen. Nectar is secreted 
by the front part of the base of the ovary which is smooth and 

APRICOT Primus armeniaca: Rosaceae 

As this fruit is best suited for cultivation under glass or against 
a south wall in Britain, it is nowhere sufficiently abundant to be 
of importance to the beekeeper. It flowers early and is visited for 
nectar and pollen and so may be helpful for early brood rearing. 
In warmer climates where orchards of the trees exist the apricot is 
considered to be a valuable bee plant and a heavy nectar yielder 
in suitable weather. 

ARABIS Arabis spp.: Cruciferae 

Among the several species of Arabis found in gardens the alpine 
rock cress (A.alpind) is probably the most useful to the beekeeper, 
flowering as it does so early in the year (March) and yielding an 
abundance of pollen and nectar. It is common in gardens and 
rockeries everywhere although sometimes misnamed white alys- 
sum or allison. Few plants yield nectar so freely so early in the 
year and are so much appreciated by bees. The name 'honig- 
schub' (honey bush) is used in Dutch for these plants. The flower 
of alpine rock cress has two pairs of nectaries at its base and the 
nectar collects in dilations of the sepals immediately beneath them. 
Among the wild species of Arabis the hairy rock cress (A.hirsuta], 
which is sometimes common in dry rocky places, is also worked for 
nectar and pollen. 

ARALIA Aralia spp.: Araliaceae 

The two Aralias sometimes grown for their ornamental foliage 

and the oddity of their thick club-like branches appear to be good 



bee plants. They are the Chinese Angelica Tree (A.chinensis), a 
prickly shrub or small tree from China, and the Hercules Club 
(A.spinosd) a native of the south-eastern U.S.A. and very similar. 
The masses of small white flowers arranged in huge bunches or 
panicles up to two feet in length have been observed to be covered 
with bees in August and September at Kew. The flowers are very 
fragrant and the nectar, which must be secreted abundantly, is 
clearly visible. 

ARNICA Arnica spp.: Compositae 

Hardy, dwarf, herbaceous perennials, allied to Senecio but not 
often cultivated. The yellow flowers of A.montana (mountain to- 
bacco), a good rock garden plant, are visited by bees. Both the 
flowers and root or creeping rhizome of this Central European 
plant have medicinal uses, so it is just possible that it may be cul- 
tivated more extensively at some future time. 

ARTICHOKE Cynara scolymus: Compositae 

The globe artichoke, when allowed to flower for seed produc- 
tion, is visited freely by bees, but the nature of the honey is not 
known. Normally of course the flower heads arc cut for use before 
they open. 

The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), a native of North 
America in spite of its name, is also a good bee plant in countries 
where it flowers. In Britain it does not normally flower. 

ASH Fraxinus excelsior: Oleaceae 

The small and inconspicuous flowers of this well-known tree, 
which are devoid of both sepals and petals, arc borne in small 
clusters on the branches. They appear early in the spring and are 
known to be visited by bees for pollen, but are probably of little 

ASPARAGUS A.ojficinalis: Liliaceae 

The flowers of the common asparagus of the vegetable garden 
or 'asparagus fern' of the flower bed, are much sought after by 
both bumble and honey bees for nectar and pollen. They are pen- 
dulous and bell-shaped with a characteristic odour, the male 
flowers being conspicuously larger than the female. The plant 
occurs in its wild form in some coastal districts of Britain and is 
known to have become naturalized in many parts of the world, 
seeds being distributed by birds. Honey has been obtained from it 



which in France has been described as greenish and of mediocre 
quality (4) and in California as amber or dark coloured, of lower 
market value than many other honeys (23). 

ASTER Aster spp.: Compositae 

A number of popular garden plants belong botanically to the 
genus Aster ) including the perennial asters or Michaelmas daisies. 
The genus contains over 400 species and most are probably useful 
to the honey bee, having a suitable flower structure. At Kew 
numerous species of Aster not in general cultivation have been ob- 
served to be freely worked. Most of the cultivated asters and 
Michaelmas daisies are native to North America where they often 
occur in large masses in the wild state. Along with the wild golden 
rods (Solidago) they afford good bee pasturage, especially in the 
autumn months. The honey obtained has been variously described 
but whatever its flavour it affords useful winter stores. 

The Michaelmas daisies (Plate 29) now so much cultivated for 
late summer or autumn flowering, and largely of garden or hybrid 
origin, all appear to be freely worked for both nectar and pollen. 
They arc undoubtedly very useful to urban and suburban bee- 
keepers as late minor food sources, especially pollen, in areas where 
they are freely grown. Some of the North American Asters are now 
naturalized in Britain. 

The common annual garden aster so much used for bedding is 
not a true Aster in the botanical sense, the many varieties being 
derived from a Chinese plant (Callistephus chinensis}. The single 
forms are visited by bees but not so freely as the Michaelmas 

The name Michaelmas daisy is sometimes used for the sea aster 
(Aster tripolium) (Plate 31), a wild British plant found near the sea 
and often brightening the salt marshes from July to September 
with its yellow-centred blue flowers. It occurs also in Europe and 
a Dutch writer states 'where there is salt soil on the coasts there 
are often masses of sea aster and much honey is obtained from it' 
(Bee World, 1927, 48). 

AUBRIETIA A.deltoidea: Cruciferae (Plate 24) 

Being among the first of our common garden plants to flower in 
the early spring, and by reason of their producing such masses of 
bloom, Aubrietias are useful to the beekeeper. They supply their 
visitors with both nectar and pollen, the nectar being freely pro- 
duced at the base of the flower and collecting in large drops in the 



cup-shaped bases of the sepals. The original plants were native to 
mountainous regions of southern Europe, but there are now 
numerous garden forms and colour varieties in cultivation. 

AZALEA Rhododendron spp.: Ericaceae 

Azaleas, like Rhododendrons, arc not of special merit as bee 
plants, and are little visited by the hive bee. This is probably 
because, in most cases, the nectar is too deep seated to be readily 
available to the honey bee, although often much sought after by 
bumble bees. However, in the case of the dwarf small-flowered 
Azaleas, flowering in early spring, the writer has observed the 
blossoms being freely worked for nectar by the honey bee when 
the weather has been favourable. 

BALSAM Impatiens spp.: Geraniaceae 

The cultivated garden balsams (Lbalsamind) grown as hardy and 
half-hardy annuals are mostly 'double' and of no use to the honey 
bee. An interesting Himalayan balsam (I.roylei) which is often cul- 
tivated and is now naturalized in some parts of the country, ap- 
pears to be a good bee plant. It reaches four feet or more in height 
and has large pink or white flowers with a wide mouth. Bees walk 
into the flower, disappearing out of sight, and draw the nectar 
from the narrow curved spur at the base of the flower. As this is 
only some 5 mm. in length all the nectar is available to the honey 
bee. In entering and leaving a flower the bee's back is dusted white 
with the pollen from the overhead stamens. Another Himalayan 
balsam favoured by bees and usually in flower in August and 
September is Impatiens amphorata. 

BAPTISIA Baptisia spp.: Leguminosae 

A vigorous group of perennials from North America, not unlike 
lupins. False Indigo (B.australis), which has indigo blue flowers, is 
sometimes seen in cultivation and attracts bees. 

BARBERRY Berberis vulgaris: Berberidaceae 

The wild barberry occurs in some parts of the country, especially 
on the chalk. This prickly deciduous shrub bears clusters of small 
yellow flowers in May which are attractive to bees. The nectar is 
secreted by thickened tissue or nectaries at the base of each petal 
and collects between the bases of the stamens and the carpels. The 
pale yellow pollen is discharged by the interesting movements 
which the stamens exhibit on being touched. 


Many other species of Berberis are cultivated as ornamental 
shrubs, and are worked by bees for nectar or pollen, the two best 
known being B.stenophylla and B.darwinii. Both these are ever- 
greens and the former is much grown as a hedge plant, producing 
an abundance of blossom. 

BARTONIA Mentzelia (Bartonia) aurea: Loasaceae 

This Californian annual has been described as a good bee plant 
(9). It reaches one to two feet in height and bears showy golden 
flowers that are pleasantly fragrant. Sowing should be carried out 
in groups or patches in warm, open situations. 

BASIL Ocimum spp.: Labiatae 

The flowers of both sweet basil (0 .basilicum) and bush basil 
(0. minimum) are visited by bees. These aromatic culinary herbs are 
much less cultivated or used in Britain than they are in Conti- 
nental countries, but are worth a place in the herb garden. There 
are many varieties differing mainly in the size, shape and colour 
of the leaves. 

BEARBERRY Arctostaphylos urva-ursi: Ericaceae 

This small trailing undershrub which occurs abundantly in 
heaths in Scotland and the north of England, as well as in the 
colder parts of America and Europe, is sometimes cultivated. It 
is especially useful for covering unsightly objects and as a ground 
cover. Clusters of rose-coloured flowers are produced in May and 
June. These contain nectar and are visited by honey bees, the 
nectar being secreted by a fleshy ring surrounding the ovary. 
Dense hairs protect and hold it at the base of the flower. 

BEDSTRAW Galium spp.: Rubiaceae 

'Ladies' bedstraw' (G.verum), a very common wild plant with 
small yellow flowers, has been referred to as a bee plant (27), but 
it is doubtful whether any of the 'bedstraws' are of any real con- 
sequence to the honey bee. 

BEE BALM Melissa qfficinalis: Labiatae 

The name 'bee balm' is sometimes applied to the red bergamot 
(Monarda didymd) which also has sweet scented leaves. This may be 
misleading to some. The true bee balm of our forefathers is a 
native of the Mediterranean region, but is common in English 
gardens. It naturalizes freely and is almost a weed in some in- 



stances. The white flowers do not, in the writer's experience, at- 
tract bees to any extent in spite of the assertions in some of the 
older bee books. The flowers of the plants examined have too long 
a corolla tube for the honey bee to extract all the nectar, and it 
is unable to force its head into the widened part of the tube. 

However, the real interest of bee balm to the beekeeper is in the 
aromatic, lemon-scented leaves. If these are crushed and rubbed 
inside a skep it is said to render it attractive to bees, and that if 
convenient branches of trees near an apiary be rubbed with the 
herb at swarming time, swarms will settle there. Rubbing the 
hands with the leaves is claimed to, and probably does, help in pre- 
venting stings. The scented water in which leaves have been 
macerated and soaked has been used in sprinkling bees in uniting 
before the general adoption of the newspaper method. The frag- 
rant oil from the leaves, known as Melissa oil and used in per- 
fumery, has been recommended for making scented syrup for 
introducing queens. 

There is difference of opinion as to the value of bee balm in 
attracting swarms. Most of those who have tried it in Britain con- 
sider it quite ineffective. A Continental observer has stated that 
while he knew it to be quite effective in Jugoslavia when he lived 
there, he found it useless in Germany (Bee World, 1930). Possibly 
in cool and humid climates it is not as effective as in warm 

BEECH Fagus sylvatica: Fagaceae 

The common beech does not flower freely every year in Britain, 
but bees are known to visit the flowers for pollen. As flowering 
does not usually take place until May, when many other sources 
of pollen are available, it is doubtful whether it is ever of much 
consequence. However, bees have been known to collect beech 
pollen freely in Europe (Bee World, 1936, 87). In some years in 
Britain the beech may be a troublesome source of honeydew. 

BEGONIA Begonia spp.: Begoniaceae 

The dwarf begonias often used as bedding plants may be visited 
a good deal for pollen, which is yielded freely. 

BELLADONNA Atropa belladonna: Solanaceae 

This important drug plant which is sometimes, although not 
frequently, to be found in the wild state, is not generally regarded 



as a bee plant. However, belladonna plots at Kew during the 
second world war were much visited by honey bees when in flower 
in May, obviously for nectar. The bee climbs right into the large 
bell shaped purple flower, out of sight, and is easily able to reach 
the nectar which is secreted by a conspicuous annular yellow nec- 
tary at the base of the ovary. It has to thrust its proboscis between 
the hairy lower part of the stamens to get at the nectar. In crawling 
in and out of the flower it becomes dusted with the pale, cream- 
coloured pollen. 

BERGAMOT Monarda spp.: Labiatae 

The name bergamot or bee balm is used for garden species of 
this North American genus, on account of the aromatic sweet 
smelling leaves, especially Monarda didyma and M.fistula with red 
and purple flowers respectively. The brightly coloured flowers are 
too long for honey bees, but bees are sometimes to be seen obtain- 
ing nectar from holes at the base of the flower made by bumble 
bees. In Texas and elsewhere in the United States, however, other 
species with shorter corolla tubes, especially M.punctata, commonly 
called 'horse mint', arc first-class bee plants and important sources 
of honey. 

BIDENS Bidens spp.: Compositae 

Mainly North American annuals, but rarely cultivated. Some 
are known to be good honey plants in their native land and are 
usually termed 'Spanish needles' or 'sticktights' on account of their 
burr-like seed heads. B.pilosa, now widely spread as a weed in warm 
climates, is well worked for nectar at Kew. There are two wild 
British species usually found in damp places. 

BILBERRY Vaccinium myrtillus: Vacciniaceae 

The bilberry, also called blaeberry, huckleberry, whortleberry 
or whinberry in different parts of the country, is often abundant 
on moors and in heathy mountainous areas. It is best known for its 
edible fruits and rarely exceeds two feet in height, with wax-like 
drooping flowers that appear from April to June. These secrete 
nectar freely and are relished by bees. Generally the plants are in 
out-of-the-way places and not many bees are on the moors when 
they are in flower. The flowers of the less common mountain blae- 
berry (V.uliginosum) and cowberry (V.vitis-idaea) which appear 
later, are also worked for nectar. 



Some of the North American Vacciniums are known to be good 
bee plants, especially the tree huckleberry (V.arboreurri), one of the 
main sources of honey in Arkansas (19). This small tree will grow 
in Britain, but is slow growing. 

BIRCH Betula spp.: Betulaceae 

The birches are not important as bee plants, but yield an abun- 
dance of pale yellow pollen early in the year which is sometimes 
collected. The silver birch (B.pendula) is common in the south of 
England, especially in the sandy soil of heath land. In the north 
and west B. pubescent is the more common. 

BiRD's-Foox TREFOIL Lotus corniculatus: Leguminosae 

This small, clover-like plant is common in dry pastures, often in 
association with white clover, and its heads of yellow flowers are 
conspicuous from June onwards, these being followed by pods 
arranged like a bird's foot hence the name. It occurs freely wild 
and is also a common constituent in seed mixtures for permanent 
pasture, being often particularly suitable for soils that are unsuitcd 
for red clover. Possessing a deep tap-root it is able to thrive in poor 
dry soils and is very drought resistant. It is frequently to be seen 
in great abundance in chalk soils and pastures near the sea, where 
it is usually in flower about a fortnight before white clover. At 
some of the higher altitudes it may be the only plant of the clover 
family in the pastures. The writer has noticed bees working the 
flowers in July, in Dorset, in preference to those of white clover 
growing round about it. Being deep rooted it may well be less 
fickle than white clover as a nectar yielder. 

The value of bird's-foot trefoil as a nectar plant in Britain is 
probably not fully appreciated, although it is held in high esteem 
in some countries, e.g. Switzerland. There are some who consider 
the plant has not received the attention it merits from the agricul- 
turist. A drawback from the farmer's point of view is that stock 
do not seem to like the plant when it is in flower. However, it is 
much grown for pasture or fodder in parts of Europe. In central 
France it is even grown as a self crop, in the same way as lucerne, 
such areas being called 'lotires'. Several different varieties are 
recognized such as 'broad' and 'narrow' leaved and 'indigen- 

The marsh bird's-foot trefoil (L.major or L.uliginosus) is a similar 
plant that grows in moist situations. Bees visit the flowers also. The 



name 'trefoil' is applied to various other clovers or clover-like 
plants species of Trifolium and Medicago. 

BLACKTHORN Prunus spinosa: Rosaceae (Plate 15) 

All lovers of wild flowers welcome the snowy white blossoms of 
the blackthorn or sloe, which contrast so well with its black, leafless 
boughs. Appearing as early as March or February in some years, 
they are among the first harbingers of spring. The shrub is com- 
mon in woods, coppices and hedges throughout Britain, but not in 
northern Scotland, and flourishes in a variety of soils. It often 
forms extensive local patches which arise from its free suckering 
habit. The flowers are good sources of nectar and pollen in country 
districts, when weather conditions allow bees to fly. To the rural 
beekeeper it is in a way the counterpart of the almond to those 
with bees in towns. 

The bullace and the wild plum, so similar to the sloe, are also 
similar in their flowering characters and value as bee plants. 

BLADDER SENNA Colutea arborescens: Leguminosae 

The yellow pea-like flowers are sometimes visited by honey bees, 
the probosces being inserted laterally for nectar, which means of 
course that pollination is not effected by them. This Mediterranean 
shrub is much grown in gardens and has become naturalized in 
some places. It is often to be seen on embankments of railways and 
new arterial roads. 

BLOOD ROOT Sanguinaria canadensis: Papaveraceae 

The reddish-yellow juice of this pretty Canadian plant is what 
accounts for its name. It is sometimes grown in gardens for its 
white flowers which appear in early spring. It also has medicinal 
properties. Like other members of the poppy family it is much 
visited by bees for pollen. It is a hardy plant that soon spreads and 
is well adapted for the semi-wild garden. 

BLUEBELL Scilla nonscripta: Liliaceae 

From time to time the question has been raised as to whether 
the common bluebell, so abundant in many parts of the country, 
is a useful bee plant. The corolla or 'flower tube' is obviously too 
long for the honey bee to collect nectar in the ordinary way, but 
there seems to be some evidence that it is able to get at the nectar 
from the side of the flower near the base (9). The pollen, which is 
a very pale shade of blue, is also collected. Some observers testify 

1 06 


to having seen bluebells being very freely worked by bees (Bee 
Woild, 1928, 148) but this does not appear to be general. 

Many of the cultivated Scillas, which have smaller flowers than 
the wild bluebell, are well worked for nectar and pollen in the 
early spring, and are valuable to the beekeeper where they are 
much planted. The Siberian Squill (S.siberica), and its varieties, is 
among the most popular and earliest to flower. Nectar is secreted 
by the septal glands of the ovary and collects between this organ 
and the bases of the stamens. The pollen is bluish-grey in colour 
and conspicuous in the bees' pollen baskets as it is brought in at 
the hive entrance in urban areas where Scillas abound. The Si- 
berian Squill is useful for edging and for naturalizing on lawns, 
provided the grass is not cut until the plants have matured. In 
some seasons it is in flower as early as February and supplies much- 
needed pollen when few other sources are available. 

BOG ASPHODEL Narthecium ossifragum: Liliaceae 

The star-like yellow flowers of this plant, which is often abun- 
dant in bogs and moors, may be visited by bees for pollen. Flower- 
ing generally takes place in July and August. 

BOGBEAN Menyanthes trifoliata: Gentianaceae 

Many consider the bog- or buck-bean one of the most beautiful 
of native plants. It is to be found only in boggy places and on the 
edges of pools. Bees sometimes visit the flowers, mainly for pollen. 

BORAGE Borago officinalis: Boraginaceae (Plate 27) 

Borage is one of those plants well established in the esteem of 
beekeepers and frequently grown by them in order to watch the 
bees at work on the attractive sky-blue flowers. Of European origin 
it has been grown in Britain for many centuries, the flowers and 
leaves being a favourite ingredient in several beverages, especially 
claret cup. Two or three leaves impart a refreshing flavour re- 
sembling cucumber now often used in place of borage. Flowers 
were also used for garnishing salads. The plant is sometimes to be 
found in waste places and cultivated ground, and when once estab- 
lished in a garden will come up year after year from self-sown seed. 
It has become naturalized in other countries, including parts of 

The plant is easy to grow and succeeds in most soils. It is best 
planted one and a half to two feet apart to allow of free develop- 


ment. Flowering commences in the middle of summer and con- 
tinues until cold weather or until the plants are cut down by frost. 
It is often grown purely as an ornamental plant and violet-red and 
white-flowered varieties exist. For early flowering seed may be 
sown in the autumn in many parts of the country. 

The nodding flowers of borage yield nectar freely and are some- 
times to be seen humming with bees, including bumble and soli- 
tary bees. Owing to their usually inverted position the nectar is not 
easily washed out by rain. They arc similar in this respect to the 
flowers of the raspberry. Each flower has a black cone of anthers 
in its centre. The nectar is secreted by the receptacle at the base 
of the ovary and collects between, and is concealed by, the bases 
of the stamens. To obtain the nectar the bee simply hangs under 
the flower and inserts its proboscis between the stamens. In doing 
this, pollen becomes sprinkled on its body. 

It is probably rarely that borage honey has been obtained in 
anything approaching a pure form arid this may account for the 
conflicting descriptions of it. One well-known authority describes 
it as 'excellent 5 (20) while another report states: 'In Practicher 
Wegweiser, page 280, Hcrr Willhelm says, that in response to the 
general cry, "Sow Borage," he has been sowing it for years and 
now has it in abundance! But, alas! now that he has it in such 
abundance that it shows its character in the surplus honey, he 
finds it such as no customer wants, and says it is as black as a 
certain "gentleman" with whom beekeepers do not generally care 
to have dealings. The task of getting it now rooted out is a difficult 
one'! (American Bee Journal, 1908, 103.) 

Bees will work borage freely as a rule, and all day long, but 
sometimes forsake it for other plants such as lime and white clover 
when these are in flower and yielding well. 

The pollen of borage is a light bluish-grey or almost white, and 
the individual grains as seen under the microscope have the con- 
striction in the middle characteristic of many of the borage family 

Box Buxus sempervirens: Euphorbiaceae 

This well-known evergreen tree is much more abundant in parts 
of Europe and Asia than Britain, where it favours the chalk dis- 
tricts of the south, a good example being Boxhill in Surrey. The 
inconspicuous yellowish-green flowers appear early in the year 
(March to May) and are sometimes, although not always, well 
worked by honey bees. The flowers yield both nectar and pollen, 

1 08 


but it is probably the latter that is the chief attraction. It is yel- 
lowish-green in colour and is produced abundantly. 

The flowers are of two kinds, an apical female flower being sur- 
rounded by six or more male flowers. Both types of flower produce 
a small quantity of nectar. The action of the honey bee in collect- 
ing pollen has been described by Miiller as follows: 'It frees the 
pollen from the still undehisced anthers with its mandibles, re- 
gurgitates some honey from its slightly protruded proboscis and 
then transfers the pollen by means of the front and mid legs to the 
hind ones. All this, however, is done so quickly that the individual 
acts can scarcely be followed 5 (11). 

Honey from box has been described as of indifferent quality (27). 
If this is so it is not surprising as other members of the same family 
are known to cause bitterness in honey. In parts of South Africa 
honey is not infrequently spoiled through bees obtaining nectar 
from the wild tree Euphorbias ('noors honey'). 

BRACKEN Pteridium aquilinum: Polypodiaceae 

Although bracken, like other ferns, bears no flowers, bees have 
been observed visiting it. Extra-floral nectaries occur on the leaf 
stalks and these seem to attract the honey bee at times, when there 
is a dearth of other sources of nectar. However, it is rarely that 
bees pay any attention to bracken. 

BRASSICA Brassica spp.: Cruciferae 

A large number of Brassicas eifford good bee pasturage when in 
flower. Many of these are everyday vegetables such as cabbages, 
cauliflowers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kales, turnips and swedes. 
Others are less known, such as kohl-rabi and Chinese cabbage, 
while still others, which are farm crops such as mustard and rape, 
are more important as bee fodder on account of their being grown 
on a larger scale and maintained until flowering is completed. 
Some wild plants and weeds such as sea cabbage (Plate 31) and 
charlock, also good bee plants, are included in the genus Brassica. 
(See charlock, mustard, radish, turnip, etc.) 

Most of the Brassicas of the vegetable garden are harvested be- 
fore the flowering stage is reached, but quite often unused plants 
of" crops are left and flower before being removed. The flowers of 
all attract bees and in the case of large-scale planting for seed as 
on seed farms, honey may be obtained. This is basically the same 
as honey from charlock and mustard with the same tendency to 
rapid granulation. 


The flowers of all Brassicas are very similar, being mostly yellow 
with four petals and sepals instead of five, which is usual in most 
plants. Nectar and pollen are usually produced freely, the nectar 
being secreted at the base of the flower and collecting there or in 
the cavities formed by the curved sepals. 

BROOM Cytisus scoparius: Leguminosae 

In company with gorse and heather, broom is one of the com- 
mon shrubs of moorland and sandy commons, often growing 
vigorously on bleak rocky hillsides and reaching five to six feet in 
height. Its rich golden flowers appear in May and June and are 
frequently visited by honey bees. There is difference of opinion as 
to whether bees obtain nectar from the flowers, although they are 
known to collect pollen, which is deep orange when packed in the 
bees' pollen baskets. 

Some of the cultivated or ornamental brooms, particularly the 
smaller flowered sorts, have been observed by the writer to be well 
worked by bees for both nectar and pollen. Notable among these is 
the early flowering Portuguese broom (C.albus) which bears white 
flowers, and is in bloom before most of the other sorts. 

BRYONY Bryonia dioica: Cucurbitaceae 

The rather unattractive greenish- white flowers of white bryony 
are visited by bees. They may be seen from May to September in 
hedgerows and other places for this climbing plant has a long 
flowering season. Although pollen is collected, the visits of hive 
bees often seem to be primarily for nectar, especially in the latter 
part of the summer. The nectar, which is partly concealed, is 
secreted at the bottom of the naked fleshy cup formed by the 
fusion of the lower part of the calyx and corolla. 

BUCKTHORN Rhamnus cathartica: Rhamnaceae 

This spreading shrub of woods and hedgerows is sometimes very 
prevalent on chalk hills in the south of England. Its small greenish- 
yellow flowers appear in dense clusters in May and are eagerly 
visited by bees for nectar. As the flowers are of a simple open type 
the nectar is exposed and available therefore to many short- 
tongued insects which must compete with the hive bee for it. 

An allied shrub, the 'alder buckthorn' or 'dogwood' (R.frangula) , 
with a less dense habit, grows mainly on damp acid soils. Like the 
buckthorn it was once cultivated to supply charcoal for gunpow- 


der. Its greenish-white flowers are visited for nectar and pollen in 
the early summer. 

Many other introduced species of Rhamnus have been observed 
to be well worked for nectar at Kew. One of the most interesting 
of these is R.purshiana from western North America, the bark of 
which is the source of the drug cascara. It yields surplus honey in 
its native land. The cultivation of this tree on extensive lines for 
bark has been considered in Britain and elsewhere, so its potential 
value as a honey producer is of more than passing interest to the 

BUDDLEIA Buddleia spp.: Loganiaceae (Plate 19) 

The common blue and purple Buddleias seen in gardens and so 
popular with butterflies are of no use to the honey bee as the 
flowers are far too long. However, the yellow Buddleia (B.globosa) 
from Chile and Peru with its flowers in attractive yellow balls is 
well worked for nectar and appears to be a good bee plant. 
Flowering usually takes place in early June, a dearth period in 
many areas, and the arrangement of the flowers in small spheres is 
such that a bee alighting on one of the heads is able to thrust its 
proboscis into the separate flower tubes one after another in an 
incredibly short space of time. 

The shrub is evergreen in mild districts and reaches fifteen feet. 
It is easily grown and distinctive among Buddleias with its balls 
of bright yellow, sweet-scented flowers arranged in clusters. 

BUFFALO BERRY Shepherdia argentea: Elaeagnaceae 

This North American shrub, allied to our Sea Buckthorn, is not 
in general cultivation but has been referred to on the Continent 
as an early flowering shrub of value to beekeepers (Die deutsche 
Biemnzucht, Nov. 1934). The flowers are produced in clusters in 
March from the joints of the previous year's growth. As an orna- 
mental shrub it is of little value. 

BURDOCK Arctium lappa: Compositae 

As one of the commonest weeds this plant needs no introduction, 
its burr-like seed heads, that cling so tenaciously to man and beast 
alike, being so familiar. The purple flowers that appear from July 
onwards closely resemble those of thistles. They are much fre- 
quented by hive bees which may be observed collecting the white 
pollen and probing the flowers as for nectar. 


As the corolla tube of the individual flowers generally exceeds 
8 mm. in length it may be that the honey bee is only able to get 
nectar when it is secreted freely and rises in the base of the tube 
to within reach of the bee's tongue. As bumble bees also frequent 
visitors with their longer tongues would be able to draw the nec- 
tar at any time, it is doubtful whether the ordinary burdock can 
be of much value for nectar to hive bees where bumble bees are 
plentiful. These remarks do not apply to the small burdock (A. 
minus) in which the whole plant, including leaves and flower heads, 
is smaller. 

BURNET Polerium spp.: Rosaceae 

These meadow plants arc sometimes attractive to bees for pollen, 
the lesser burnet (P.sanguisorba) being prevalent on chalk soils. 
They were at one time planted as pasturage. The seed is still used 
sometimes in seed mixtures for permanent pastures or poor, light 
or thin soils. 

BUTTERBUR Petasites vulgaris: Compositae 

This plant with downy leaves like Coltsfoot, but larger, is often 
to be seen along river banks and in other situations. The flower 
stalks appear early, from March onwards, and before the leaves. 
Separate male and female flowers generally grow on different 
plants. They are attractive to bees, although not very conspicuous 
in themselves. One observer states: 'Where it abounds I feel con- 
vinced that it is of great help to bees, blooming as it does so early 
in the year, for I have had evidence that it yields abundantly, 
both nectar and pollen. There is a bed of it not more than half a 
mile distant from Nottingham Castle, which, on warm days in 
March and April, is literally alive with hive bees, even to the 
abandonment of patches of Coltsfoot growing near it' (8) . 

This plant is said to have been planted by Swedish beekeepers 
near their hives on account of its early flowering. For those who 
may wish to do likewise it is well to remember that the plant has 
long creeping roots with which it multiplies quickly, and that it 
may oust other plants or become a nuisance if not controlled. 

A closely allied plant is the so-called winter heliotrope (Petasites 
fragrans), very like coltsfoot in leaf, and a rampant weed. It bears 
spikes of dingy lilac flowers from December to February. Bees visit 
the flowers when the weather is suitable. Like the butterbur it will 
take command of a garden if allowed to do so. 



Dipsacus sp. 
visit the mauve flowers of the Wild 
Teazle LEFT) aotl the 

Fuller's Teazle (Dipsacus fullonuw : RIGHT) for 

nee tar 


in for 


Tnssilago fwfar 


PLATE 18. Coltsfoot are all loo common as 

but arc very to the beekeeper in the year 


BUTTERCUP Ranunculus spp.: Ranunculaceae 

The numerous buttercups so prevalent in pastures are of little 
consequence as bee plants. The flowers of many species seem never 
to be visited by honey bees at all but those of others, e.g. the lesser 
celandine (R.ficaria) and bulbous buttercup (R.bulbosus) both com- 
mon species, may be worked for pollen on occasions. 

Buttercups are, in general, unpalatable plants, owing to the 
presence of an acrid poisonous principle, and have caused poison- 
ing in livestock. It is of interest, therefore, to note that in recent 
years the pollen of buttercups has been proved to be actually in- 
jurious to bees in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe and re- 
sponsible for a form of 'May sickness'. Bad outbreaks of this 
malady have occurred in seasons when cold weather has retarded 
the flowering of the usual early pollen plants, like cherries and 
dandelions, but not the more hardy buttercups, causing the bees 
to collect larger amounts of buttercup pollen. 

In Britain there is usually an abundance of other 'wholesome' 
pollen plants in flower at the times when buttercups are in bloom, 
so presumably this form of bee malady may be less likely to occur. 
The harmful nature of buttercup pollen, or at any rale that of 
some species of Ranunculus, may be the reason why the flowers are 
so often completely neglected by hive bees. Their instinct warns 
them to leave the flowers alone. (Bee World, 1942, 47, 78.) 

CALENDULA Calendula officinalis: Compositae 

Calendulas or marigolds enjoy wide popularity and are easily 
grown, being not at all particular as to soil and surroundings. Un- 
fortunately for the beekeeper most of those cultivated, including 
the choice varieties, are 'double' and of no use for bees. Sometimes 
reversions to the single form take place, however, when bees freely 
work the central or disc florets. The old-fashioned single yellow or 
cottage marigold is a good bee plant. 

CALIFORNTAN POPPY Eschscholtzia spp.: Papaveraceae 

The Eschscholtzias or Californian poppies are always popular 
for mixed borders and thrive equally well on light and heavy soils. 
Besides the original yellow and orange shades they are now avail- 
able in other colours, some of the pale rose and flesh coloured 
shades being particularly delicate. 

These plants are always favoured by bees for pollen, which must 
be of a kind particularly to their liking. It is bright orange in 
H 113 


colour. The flowers may sometimes be worked for nectar also, pos- 
sibly secreted only spasmodically or in small amounts. 

CALLICARPA C.giraldiana: Verbenaceae 

This attractive shrub is sometimes to be seen in parks and 
pleasure grounds, but is a comparatively recent introduction from 
central and western China. The flowers, which appear in July, are 
decidedly attractive to bees for nectar. Handsome foliage and blue 
berries are additional merits of the plant. 

CAMASSIA Camassia spp.: Liliaceae 

These hardy bulbous North American plants are often grown in 
gardens, especially for cutting. Their handsome, usually blue, 
flowers are attractive to bees, particularly those of C.cusikii and 
C.esculenta (Quamash). The bulbs of the latter were used as food 
by American Indians. 

CAMPANULA Campanula spp.: Campanulaceae 

Campanulas are invariably popular bee plants and are visited 
for nectar and pollen. The number of different kinds cultivated is 
very large and they range from tiny Alpine plants (harebells) a 
few inches in height, to tall vigorous growing perennials like the 
chimney bellflower (C.pyramidalis) four to six feet high. Canterbury 
bells in their many and richly coloured forms are included with 

Among the better known garden Campanulas the Carpathian 
harebell (C.carpatica], popular for rock gardens, has been observed 
to be freely worked on occasions, so also has the peach-leaved bell- 
flower (C.persicifolia). Many Campanulas are good edging plants, 
and when grown in this way provide a greater quantity of blossom 
for bees to work upon. 

The wild Campanulas of the woods and downs are also visited, 
but some of the species are comparatively rare plants. The clus- 
tered bell-flower (C.glomerata) may be frequent in dry hilly pastures 
and attracts bees. The harebell or 'bluebell' of Scotland (C.rotundi- 
folid) is also a common species. Campanula pollen is often found 
in heather honey where plants occur on the moors. 

CANDYTUFT Iberis spp.: Cruciferae 

Both annual and perennial forms of candytuft are much culti- 
vated. The annual kinds, which flourish in almost any soil are 
probably the more favoured by bees. They are now available i n 



numerous colours besides white, including purple, lilac, crimson, 
rose and carmine. For early flowering seed may safely be sown in 
the autumn in most districts. 

CARDOON Cynara cardunculus: Compositae 

The flower heads of this vegetable which are so like those of the 
artichoke, are visited by honey bees. However, the plant is seldom 
seen in Britain although more freely cultivated on the Continent. 
The leaves are blanched and used like celery. 

CARROT Daucus carota: Umbelliferae 

The flowers of carrots when left for seed are visited by honey 
bees along with numerous other insects. The nectar is freely ex- 
posed as in most Umbelliferous flowers, consequently short- tongued 
insects like flies have free access to it and probably compete actively 
with the honey bee. This may explain why it is not as attractive to 
bees as are many other flowers where the nectar is partly concealed 
and available to fewer insects. 

Carrot plots or small fields grown at Kew during the second 
world war were not well worked by hive bees even when in full 
flower during fine weather, although occasional bees were present 
and not interested only in pollen. However, in California honey is 
said to be obtained from carrots when grown for seed and to be of 
light amber colour (23). 

The wild carrot, progenitor of the cultivated sorts, and with 
similar flowers, is a very common plant in dry places and the 
borders of fields. Honey bees have been observed on it. The plant 
has become a common weed in parts of North America. It is listed 
as a honey plant there (19). 

CARYOPTERIS Caryopteris spp.: Verbenaceae 

Little known semi-woody shrubs from China and Japan, some 
of which are inclined to be tender except in the mildest parts of 
the country. C.tangutica is probably the hardiest. C.incana is popular 
in gardens. The violet-blue flowers appear late (September to 
October) in dense clusters and are much visited by hive bees for 
nectar at Kew. The leaves are sweet scented. 

CASTOR OIL PLANT Ricinus communis: Euphorbiaceae 

An important oil seed crop in warm countries. Sometimes grown 
as an ornamental foliage plant in Britain. Bees may visit the 

flowers for pollen which is produced freely. Extrafloral nectaries 
exist at the base of the leaf. 

CATALPA C.bignonioides: Bignoniaceae 

The Catalpa or Indian bean from eastern North America has 
been grown in English gardens for about 200 years, and is popular 
on account of its small size and elegant shape, its attractive flowers, 
and its quaint bean-like seed pods. The blossoms appear in July 
and August in large panicles or bunches and are available when 
few other trees are in flower. They attract hive and bumble bees 
in large numbers for nectar. As the individual flowers are bell- 
shaped and about one and a half inches long and across bees crawl 
right into them. Bees have been observed collecting nectar from 
the extrafloral nectaries on the under-surface of the leaves. These 
secrete before, during and after the blossoming period (American 
Bee Journal, 1938, 319). 

Other Catalpas not in general cultivation have been observed 
to be popular with bees at Kcw. Notable among them is Catalpa 
ovata, a Chinese tree with smaller flowers and more deeply lobed 
leaves than the common sort. It flowers equally freely and at about 
the same time. 

CATMINT Nepeta spp.: Labiatae (Plate 24} 

The name catmint is applied to several different plants. In the 
days of our forefathers it was alw r ays used for an erect growing 
wild British plant bearing white flowers dotted with pink (see Cat- 
nip, Nepeta cataria). The name has also been used for calamint 
(Satureia calamintha), but is more generally applied nowadays to 
Nepeta marifolia (N.Mussinii), the common garden catmint that 
originated from south-eastern Europe and Persia. 

This is one of the most widely cultivated perennials and always 
an attractive plant with its dense prostrate habit, its grey-green 
foliage and blue flowers that appear in such profusion in May or 
June. It remains in flower for a long period and attracts bees con- 
tinually. Nectar is secreted freely and the flower tubes are just the 
right length for the honey bee and sufficiently long to exclude flies 
and other short-tongued insects. It is undoubtedly one of the best 
bee plants as any beekeeper who has observed it closely can 
testify. Unfortunately it is never cultivated on a sufficiently large 
scale for surplus honey to be obtained having no other use than 
as a garden plant. It grows well in almost any soil, even thriving 
on the gravel covering of air-raid shelters during the war. 


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ti > w 

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PLATE 20. be a of 

for In the The 

of for 


The flowers of several other allied species of Nepeta that closely 
resemble the common catmint are also favourites with the honey 

CATNIP Nepeta cataria: Labiatae (Plate 6) 

As already stated, this herb is also known as catmint. Its white 
flowers are spotted with purple or pink and are attractive to bees. 
Although a native plant it is not very common in the English 
countryside except sometimes in chalk soils, where it may occur 
fairly freely in hedgerows, reaching two to three feet in height. It 
is strongly scented and the odour seems to be attractive to cats 
hence the name. 

Early settlers from Europe introduced the herb into North 
America, where it has become widely naturalized and is regarded 
as a good bee plant. Moses Quinby, the famous American bee- 
keeper, is said to have stated that if he were to grow any plant 
intensively for the honey it produces that plant would be catnip 

CATSEAR Hypochaeris radiata: Compositae 

The yellow flower heads of this weed, which somewhat resemble 
those of a dandelion, are visited by bees probably mainly for 

CEANOTHUS Ceanothns spp.: Rhamnaceae 

Most of these blue flowered shrubs in cultivation are of hybrid 
origin. The flowers are visited by bees, but not in large numbers 
as a rule, and mainly for pollen. Those that flower early in the 
year (April) seem to offer most attraction. The shrubs are gener- 
ally inclined to be tender and are best with the protection of a 
wall. In their native home (North America) they occur in great 
abundance in some regions, yielding nectar and pollen. They con- 
stitute the 'wild lilac' of the Chaparral. 

CELERY - Apium graveolens: Umbelliferae 

The flowers of celery attract honey bees to some extent in com- 
pany with many other insects, and where this plant has been 
grown in bulk for seed as in the seed belt of California surplus 
has been obtained (Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1919, 712). 

Wild celery, the ancestral form of the cultivated plant, grows 
about ditches and rivers and in moist places generally. The clusters 
of small white flowers appear from June to September. 



CELTIS C.occidentalis: Ulmaceae 

A large North American tree sometimes to be seen in gardens 
and pleasure grounds although not often. Like its close relative the 
elm, it may be a useful early pollen source. The name sugarberry 
is sometimes applied to it. 

CENTAUREA Centaurea spp. Compositae 

Included in this genus are a number of useful bee plants which 
occur wild, as weeds, or are cultivated as garden plants. 

One of the most common is knapweed or hardheads (C.nigrd) a 
valuable nectar plant and the source of surplus honey in Ireland. 
The honey is said to be golden, thin and with a sharp flavour not 
of the best quality in fact and the pollen is greenish-yellow. The 
plant is common everywhere in fields, meadows, roadsides, etc., 
and flowers freely in June and August. 

The greater knapweed (C.scabiosa) is also a good bee plant. 
Clumps of it are sometimes conspicuous with their bright purple 
flowers on sea cliffs. The brilliant blue cornflower (C.cyanus] which 
may be noticeable in ripening corn is also much sought after by 
bees as are the garden forms of the plant often grown as annuals. 
With these bees appear to work the blue, white, or many-coloured 
forms with equal fervour and do not discriminate between them. 
Cornflower honey on the Continent has been described as viscid 
and of a golden colour (Bienen eitung,July 1926). 

Other Centaureas which are particularly attractive to bees are 
the bluebottle or mountain Centaurea (C.montana), a more robust 
plant and useful for cutting, Centaurea dealbata from the Caucasus, 
and sweet sultan. 

The so-called yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) , a Mediter- 
ranean plant now widely spread as a weed (including Britain) is 
also a good plant for bees, and surplus honey has been obtained 
from it where it is common enough. It has become a serious weed 
in grain fields and along roads and railways in parts of the United 
States, where it is said to provide a slow but continuous nectar 
flow and yield a honey of fine flavour, slow to granulate, and much 
in demand (23). 

CEPHALANTHUS C.occidentalis: Rubiaceae 

This shrub is widely spread in Canada and the United States 

where it is an important honey plant and commonly called button 

bush as the small white flowers are in globular heads. It grows 


well in Britain, but is not often seen, thriving best in moist situa- 
tions and preferably peaty soils. The fact that it flowers fairly late 
(August), when few nectar sources are available in some districts, 
makes it of interest to the British beekeeper. Honey from the plant 
in its native land is said to be light in colour and mild in flavour 


CHAMOMILE Anthemis spp.: Compositae 

These daisy-like flowers, particularly those of the corn chamo- 
mile (A.arvensis), may be visited by bees in June and July for nec- 
tar, but usually there are other more attractive sources of nectar 
available at this time. 

CHESTNUT Castanea sativa: Fagaceae 

The sweet or Spanish chestnut is regarded as having been intro- 
duced to Britain by the Romans and is now common everywhere, 
except on chalk soils which it avoids. Flowering usually takes place 
in July and the flowers are of two kinds, the tassels of male flowers 
being more conspicuous than the female. Bees are frequently to be 
observed assiduously working the male flowers for pollen, but little 
nectar seems to be obtained as a rule, at least under the average 
conditions prevailing in Britain. 

However, in parts of Europe where the tree is often grown ex- 
tensively for the sake of the nuts, it seems to be of some importance 
as a nectar plant and honey is obtained from it. This is the case 
in Spain (Flora Apicola de Espana, M. Pons Fabreques) and in parts 
of southern Switzerland (Bee World, 1941, 95). The honey is re- 
puted to be yellow in colour and of rather poor quality. In 
Czechoslovakia nectar is said to be secreted only after warm nights. 
The reason why so little is heard of the tree as a nectar yielder in 
Britain may be that the climate is not warm enough or is in other 
respects unsuitable. In Japan chestnuts are important bee forage. 

CHIGKWEED Stellaria media: Caryophyllaceae 

As one of the commonest weeds of the garden and rich culti- 
vated land, this plant needs no introduction. It may be found in 
flower from February to October. Bees have been observed visiting 
the flowers for nectar, which is only secreted in sunny weather. 
The five tiny nectaries are situated at the base of the five outer 
stamens. In California the chickwceds are regarded as valuable for 
early nectar for stimulative purposes (23). 



CHICORY Cichorium intybus: Compositae (Plate 21) 

This beautiful plant is one with many uses. It may be grown as 
a crop for the roots (for coffee), as a garden vegetable for the 
young leaves, or as a forage plant for stock. It also occurs as a 
weed in waste places and on the borders of fields, especially in light 
gravelly soils. The sky-blue star-like flowers, as large as a dande- 
lion, appear from June onwards and are great favourites with 
honey bees. They supply nectar and pollen and may be found to 
close up early in the afternoon. 

Chicory has been grown on a field scale for the roots and for 
seed in Huntingdonshire, where honey has been obtained from it. 
This is described as of a peculiar yellow colour, slightly greenish, 
even when granulated, and with a flavour reminiscent of chicory 
when fresh. 

CISTUS Cistus spp.: Cistaceae 

These shrubs have mainly originated from the Mediterranean 
basin and are generally referred to as rock roses along with Heli- 
anthemum. Most of the garden forms are of hybrid origin. Their 
brightly coloured flowers, which are usually present in great pro- 
fusion, attract bees mainly for pollen. The flowers seldom last 
more than a day, in some cases only for a morning. The fact that 
many cannot withstand severe winters accounts for their not being 
more generally cultivated. 

CLARKIA Clarkia elegans: Onagraceae 

The flowers of this hardy annual, when of the single type, re- 
ceive the attention of honey bees. The double flowered forms, 
which include many of the choice newer varieties, have little or 
nothing to offer bees and fail to attract them. 

CLAYTONIA Claytonia spp.: Portulacaceae 

The Claytonias are native to Northern Asia and North America, 
but two species, C.perfoliata and G.siberica> have long been natural- 
ized in Britain. The first mentioned, originally introduced from 
north-west America as a pot-herb, is now a very common annual 
weed in some parts of the country. It favours moist places, growing 
six to twelve inches high and bearing white flowers. 

Among those grown in gardens are some with pretty rose-pink 
flowers such as 'spring beauty' (C.virginiand). Those that blossom 


early in the year are attractive to bees, especially for pollen. 

CLEMATIS Clematis spp.: Ranunculaceae 

These popular climbing plants produce an abundance of pollen 
from the many stamens of their flowers. It is often collected by 
hive bees. Some, but not all, yield nectar as well. Many of the 
showy garden forms are among those without nectar, including the 
widely grown 'Jackmani' hybrids. 

The wild clematis or traveller's joy (C.vitalba) of the hedgerows, 
yields nectar in addition to pollen, and is sometimes buzzing with 
bees. It flowers in midsummer, when other more important nectar 
plants are generally available, consequently nothing is known re- 
garding its honey (14). The flower is of interest in that the nectar 
is produced in droplets on the filaments (stamen stalks) and not 
from nectaries at the base of the flower. 

CLEOME Cleome spp.: Capparidaceae 

Some interesting bee plants are included in this genus although 
none are in general cultivation in English gardens. Several are 
essentially hot-house plants in this climate, but others have been 
successfully grown in the south of England as half hardy annuals, 
cultivation being best in light dry soils and warm situations. They 
bear large showy flowers with long thin or spidery stamens, hence 
the name spider flower sometimes given to them. 

Among those worthy of consideration by enthusiastic beekeepers 
and for the bee garden arc the Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (C.ser- 
rulata) (19) and C.lutea. Both are annuals which have attracted a 
good deal of attention among American beekeepers (American Bee 
Journal, 1940). 

CLETHRA C.alnifolia: Ericaceae 

This handsome shrub is the most interesting of the Clethras from 
the beekeeper's point of view. It was introduced into Britain from 
North America over 200 years ago. Like so many of the heath 
family, it thrives best in a peaty soil and requires a moist situation. 
It reaches eight to nine feet in height and produces fragrant white 
flowers in August which are of value to bees. In its native land, 
where it is called sweet pepper bush, it is regarded as a good nectar 
plant yielding a thick, white honey of fine flavour (19). It has 
proved to be attractive to bees in Germany (Bee World, 1935, 



COLLETIA C.armata: Rhamnaceae 

This peculiar Chilean shrub, which reaches ten feet in height 
and bears long cylindrical spines up to one and a half inches long, 
flowers late in the year (October). Its small, white blossoms are 
attractive to bees on sunny autumnal days at Kew nectar and 
pollen being collected. It is little grown at present, but may have 
possibilities as a hedge or fence plant. An allied species, C.armata, 
also from Chile, is very similar. 

COLLINSIA Collinsia spp.: Scrophulariaceae 

The brightly coloured flowers of these annuals are sometimes 
visited by bees. Their early flowering, especially when autumn 
sown, is one of their main virtues, particularly from the bee- 
keepers' point of view. 

COLTSFOOT Tussilago farfara: Compositae (Plate 18) 

As one of the first wild flowers to appear in early spring and a 
source of pollen and nectar, this humble little plant is a good 
friend of the beekeeper. It is common in fields and pastures, es- 
pecially on clay soils and marls, and is one of the first plants to 
appear anywhere where ground has been disturbed. Railway 
tracks and the cuttings and embankments of some of the newer 
arterial roads may be covered with the plant. The felted leaves 
were much used medicinally at one time and are still collected in 
quantity for the manufacture of substitute tobaccos or herbal 
smoking mixtures. 

The flowers generally spring up early in March, before the 
leaves, and are not unlike dandelions, but smaller. They close up 
at night and on dull days. Pollen is produced by the central male 
flowers of the flower-head and nectar by the outer female ones, a 
yellow circular nectary being at the base of each style (n). The 
pollen is golden in colour and the individual grains densely spiny 
when magnified, like other members of the same family. 

As a bee plant the value of coltsfoot is primarily for pollen, 
weather conditions being seldom favourable enough for free nectar 
secretion at the early season when it flowers. It is doubtful whether 
the flowers are ever as freely worked as those of the dandelion are 
on occasions. 

COLUMBINE Aquilegia vulgaris: Ranunculaceae 

The wild columbine occurs fairly frequently in some parts of the 


country, notably Devon. The spurs of the flower which contain the 
nectar are too long for the honey bee, although it sometimes 'steals' 
the nectar from the punctures of bumble bees. The flowers may 
also be visited for pollen. This applies also to the garden aquilegias. 

COMFREY Symphytum spp. 

Wild and prickly comfrey have been listed as bee plants for 
nectar and pollen (Bee Craft, May 1936). With most comfreys, 
however, nectar can only be reached by the honey bee when the 
base of the long flower tube has been punctured by a bumble bee. 

CONEFLOWER Rudbeckia spp.: Compositae 

These American plants, very like sunflowers with their large 
yellow heads but with a raised central cone, appear to be good bee 
plants. They flower in the late summer and autumn and when 
common in gardens may, along with other autumn flowers, assist 
in supplying winter stores. Rudbeckia laciniata, with deeply divided 
leaves, is one of the tallest, growing from seven to ten feet in height. 
It has a large flower with a greenish cone and is sometimes freely 
worked by bees for nectar. 

CONVOLVULUS C.arvensis: Convolvulaceae (Plate 14) 

As one of the most troublesome of farm weeds, the common 
Convolvulus or field bindweed is well known to all who live in 
country districts. It may also be a nuisance in the garden of the 
town dweller or on the allotment as the smallest fragment of the 
underground stem or root left in the soil may give rise to a new 
plant. The funnel-shaped pink or white flowers which are some- 
times striped vary a good deal in size. Nectar is secreted at the base 
of the ovary and the flower has long tubular nectar passages lead- 
ing to it. The smaller flowered kinds are visited freely by honey 
bees, while bumble bees work both the small and the large-flowered 
sorts equally well. Bindweed which had heavily infested cornfields 
in the Penn (Buckinghamshire) area was observed by the writer to 
be intensively worked by honey bees for nectar in July, and ap- 
preciable quantities of nectar must be obtained from such fields. 
Bindweed pollen is frequently found in honey, especially in honey 
from Europe (27). 

Other bindweeds (species of Convolvulus and Ipomoed) are known 
to be honey yielders. One of the best known is perhaps the c cam- 
panilla' of Cuba (Ipomoea sidaefolia or I.triloba] which is of great 
importance as a honey plant to the beekeepers there. The honey 


obtained from it is said to be equal to that of lucerne or sage in 
flavour and colour, and the comb built from it a pearly white, 
yielding a wax as white as tallow (20). 

COREOPSIS Coreopsis spp.: Compositae 

Both the annual and perennial forms of the garden coreopsis or 
calliopsis receive attention from honey bees for nectar and pollen. 
Although the plants may be in flower for a long period in the 
summer they are seldom cultivated in anything but small groups 
or patches. Many of the true species, as distinct from the garden 
forms, have been observed at Kew to be very freely worked in the 
late summer. 

CORN COCKLE Lychnis githago: Caryophyllaceae 

The showy purple flowers of this plant, sometimes conspicuous 
in corn as it reaches the ripening stage, may attract the attention 
of bees. The pollen has often been found in honey, the individual 
grain being large and somewhat unusual in structure (27). 

CORN RATTLE Rhinanthus crista-galli: Scrophulariaceae 

The corolla or flower tubes of this meadow plant are, like those 
of its near relative the Red Bartsia, too long for the honey bee, but 
are frequently punctured near the base and the honey bee takes 
advantage of this. 

COTONEASTER Cotoneaster spp.: Rosaceae 

This large group of deciduous and evergreen shrubs contains 
some first-class nectar plants. About two dozen different species 
have been recorded as well worked by honey bees at Kew. Few 
flowers are so persistently visited as those of some of the commonly 
cultivated Cotoneasters. Even in the middle of the Lime flow cer- 
tain Cotoneasters in flower have been observed covered with bees 
which suggests that the nectar may be of high sugar content or at 
any rate especially attractive to the honey bee. Nectar is obviously 
secreted very copiously in many instances. This may be seen by 
placing sprigs of blossom in water overnight in a warm, close 
atmosphere, when the bases of the flowers will be found to be 
covered in nectar by morning. Secretion takes place from the 
fleshy inner wall of the receptacle as in the almond and other 

The species most commonly cultivated in Britain as decorative 
shrubs, largely for their attractive berries and in some instances as 














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hedges, are probably C.Simonsii, C.microphylla^ C.frigida and C.hort- 
zontalis. These are mostly from the Himalayas. The two first men- 
tioned have become quite extensively naturalized in some parts of 
the country, seed being carried by birds. C.frigida develops into a 
small tree while C.horizontalis, as the name indicates, is low growing 
and well suited for training on walls or wooden fences. The last 
mentioned is invariably besieged by bees when in flower. 

Cotoneasters are amongst the easiest subjects to grow in the 
garden or shrubbery and thrive in any soil. The flowers are re- 
markably uniform, generally about a quarter of an inch across and 
well constructed for the honey bee. Flowering takes place mainly 
in May and June. Several are in flower in the first half of June, a 
dearth period for nectar in many areas. 

COW-WHEAT Melampyrum pratense: Scrophulariaceae 

Hive bees are sometimes to be seen around the pale yellow 
flowers of this very common wild plant. They cannot obtain the 
nectar in the orthodox manner as the flower tube is much too long 
for them, being some 14-15 mm. in length. However, the obliging 
punctures of other insects at the base of the flower arc common 
and are the cause of the attraction. Nectar is produced freely at 
the base of the flower and may rise 2-3 mm. in the flower tube. An 
interesting point about the plant is that it bears nectar secreting 
trichomes or hairs that attract ants. 

CRANES-BILL Geranium pratense: Geraniaceae 

The common purple-flowered meadow cranes-bill or wild ger- 
anium that is often so common around thickets and in damp 
places, is a good bee plant. So also are several other wild and 
garden geraniums, including the bloody or blood-red cranes-bill 
(G.sanguinium) (Plate 21), dovesfoot cranes-bill (G.molle) and dusky 
cranes-bill (G.phaeum). The last mentioned, although rare as a wild 
plant, is grown in gardens. Its purplish-black flowers appear in 
May and are sometimes covered with bees seeking nectar from 
morning till night. 

In geraniums nectar is usually secreted at the bases of the sta- 
mens. The pollen grain is large and easy to distinguish under the 
microscope, being rough with a fine network. 

The true geraniums or cranes-bill should not be confused with 
the pelargoniums to which the scarlet bedding 'geraniums' be- 
long not nearly such good bee plants. 



CROCUS Crocus spp.: Iridaceae 

Crocuses are always of value to the beekeeper producing as they 
do an abundance of pollen at a time when there are few sources of 
fresh pollen available. They are often grown in the vicinity of hives 
for this reason. In company with the winter aconite (Eranthis hye- 
malis) they are among the plants that are most worth while cul- 
tivating by the beekeeper. 

February is the month when the first flowers open in most dis- 
tricts in the south of England, but this depends upon the forward- 
ness of the season and other considerations. In exceptionally early 
springs crocuses at Kew have been out in the latter part of January. 
The flowering period is fortunately long and extends well over a 
month as a general rule. 

The number of different kinds of crocus in cultivation is very 
large, as a study of any seedsman's or bulb-merchant's catalogue 
will show. Some of the commoner sorts are also to be found in a 
wild or semi-wild state. There is probably little or no difference in 
their attractiveness to bees for pollen. Nectar may also be obtained 
by the honey bee in some instances, but as a rule the flowers are 
worked only for pollen. It has been stated (27) that some of the 
yellow-flowered varieties are the best for nectar, but this requires 
confirmation. The nectar is secreted at the base of the flower and 
as the long narrow flower-tube is almost completely filled by the 
style and hairs it requires a proboscis of fair length, longer than 
that of the honey bcc, to reach it. However, if nectar accumulates 
and rises sufficiently in the tube the honey bee may be able to 
reach it by making great efforts (i i). 

The pollen of the crocus is generally bright orange or golden in 
colour. The individual grain is large, smooth and spherical and is 
usually easily distinguished from other pollen grains by its size, 
shape and colour. Some of the newer garden forms of crocus (tetra- 
ploids) have an exceptionally large pollen grain. 

The autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) which flowers in the 
autumn and not in the spring, as the name indicates, also yields 
pollen and perhaps nectar (i). It exists wild and cultivated. The 
pollen is of a somewhat oily nature. 

CROWN IMPERIAL Fritillaria imperialis: Liliaceae 

This showy and stately garden plant, which grows three to four 

feet high and bears a cluster of large bell-like flowers at the top, is 

of interest on account of the large amount of nectar each individual 


flower is capable of yielding. The nectar is secreted in the form of 
six large drops at the base of the flower. Although the nectar is 
stated to be weak or of low sugar content (4) it is acceptable to 
honey bees on occasions. Flowers vary in shade from yellow to 
copper or red. This large bulbous plant does best undisturbed in 
a rich soil. It is well suited for the edges of shrubberies. 

CUCKOOFLOWER Cardamine pratensis: Cruciferae 

The soft pink or pale lilac flowers of this plant are very common 
in meadows early in the year or just at the time when the cuckoo's 
song is first heard. Bees make good use of them for nectar and 
pollen. The nectar is secreted by two pairs of nectaries, one large 
and one small, at the base of the flower, and collects in the 
pouches formed by the bases of the sepals. 

CUCUMBER Cucumis sativus: Cucurbitaceae 

The cucumber, like other members of the gourd family, is largely 
dependent upon bees for pollination, the male and female organs 
being borne on separate flowers. When grown in glass-houses, as is 
usual in Britain, pollination is generally done by hand. Hives of 
bees placed in large houses at flowering time do the work efficiently 
but unfortunately large numbers of bees beat against the glass con- 
tinuously until exhausted and die. 

When cucumbers are grown on a field scale out of doors, as is 
the case in some countries, crops of honey may be obtained. Such 
honey has been described as pale yellow or amber in colour with 
a rather strong cucumber-like flavour at first, which largely 
disappears in time (19). 

CURRANT Ribes spp.: Saxifragaceae 

The black, red, and white currants of the fruit garden are all 
good bee plants and yield nectar and pollen fairly early in the 
season. The black currant (R.nigruni) is the most extensively cul- 
tivated, and in fruit-growing districts quite large areas may be 
available as bee forage to beekeepers that happen to be in the 
vicinity. However, owing to the presence of many other nectar 
sources at the time flowering takes place > it is doubtful whether 
black currant honey in anything like a pure form has ever been 
obtained. The enhanced value that is now attributed to black cur- 
rants as a source of vitamins has led to increased cultivation of this 

The inconspicuous flowers of the black currant have a somewhat 



characteristic odour. The petals are white and the tips of the 
sepals tinged with red. As the bell-shaped flower is only some 5 
mm. deep, the honey bee has easy access to the nectar. Not only 
does it extract the nectar from the open flower, but may even open 
the older flower buds with its jaws (i i). 

Some of the flowering currants (R.sanguinium] (Plate 17) so 
popular in gardens, are also good bee plants and blossom early in 
the season. They are generally in flower in April and seldom fail 
to blossom freely. Honey bees are often present in large numbers, 
working especially for pollen. There are many varieties of flower- 
ing currant. In some the flower tube is too long for the hive bee 
to obtain nectar. 

GYNOGLOSSUM Cynoglossum spp.: Boraginaceae 

The hound's tongue of the flower garden may include various 
plants (annuals, biennials or perennials) which thrive in any gar- 
den soil in a sunny position. Their deep blue forget-me-not-like 
flowers appear in June or July and attract bees. So also do the 
claret-coloured flowers of the wild hound's tongue (C.qfficinale) to 
be seen usually by roadsides, in waste places and around sand- 
dunes, etc. The nectar, protected by velvety hairs, is secreted by 
a fleshy nectary at the base of the flower tube which is only some 
3 mm. long (n). 

DAFFODIL Narcissus spp.: Amaryllidaceae 

Daffodils, Narcissi and Jonquils are of some value to the bee- 
keeper for pollen, especially as they appear so early but are of 
little consequence as far as nectar is concerned. The cultivated 
kinds vary a great deal in shape, size, colour and time of flowering. 
The wild daffodil (N. pseudo-narcissus] with its pale yellow flowers 
appearing usually in March, is common in moist woods and thickets 
in some parts of the country, especially the south-eastern counties. 
Nectar collects at the base of the flower tube and is shielded or 
protected by the bases of the stamens and a fairly long proboscis 
is required to reach it. The flowers are better suited for bumble 
bees and Lepidoptera than for the honey bee. 

DAHLIA Dahlia spp.: Compositae 

Mexico is the original home of the parent plants of the many 
kinds of dahlia now in cultivation. Those that are single, whether 
tall or dwarf, large or small, are good bee plants and supply nectar 


















m ~ 

, v l' 


PLATE 24. Common garden plants always popular with bees 

and pollen at a time of the year when they are becoming short in 
most areas. Some of the dwarf bedding varieties now grown are 
particularly useful in this respect, with their long blooming period 
and free flowering habit right up lo the time the first frosts 

DAISY Bellis perennis: Compositae 

The common daisy of fields and lawns that so delights the small 
child, and flowers most months of the year (March to October) is 
said to be visited by honey bees in quite large numbers for pollen 
in some European countries (11). The writer has never observed 
this to be the case in districts with which he is familiar in Britain, 
where the flowers appear to be neglected. 

The ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) with its flower 
heads nearly three inches across and common in meadows, num- 
bers the honey bee among its insect visitors. It is also cultivated. 

DAPHNE Daphne mezereum: Thymeliaceae 

The common daphne or mezereon is a shrub often seen in gar- 
dens, especially cottage gardens, and is favoured for its sweet- 
scented flowers that appear so early in the year and before the 
leaves. It is usually in flower early in February and so keeps com- 
pany with the crocus and snowdrop. A white-flowered variety is 
also grown. The mezereon exists apparently wild in woods in the 
south of England, but is actually a native of Europe and Siberia. 
Honey bees frequent the flowers when the weather is warm enough 
for nectar and pollen. 

The flowers of another daphne, the spurge laurel (D.laureola), 
an evergreen shrub usually to be seen in copses and woods on chalk 
or limestone, also attract bees. 

DATE PLUM Diospyros lotus: Ebenaceae 

This name is used for a small deciduous tree sometimes seen in 
cultivation, but generally only in collections. It has a wide dis- 
tribution in the wild state, extending from North Africa and Asia 
Minor to China. The fruit is edible. Small unisexual flowers appear 
in June and are actively worked by honey bees for nectar. At least 
this is the case year after year in the Kew area. The tree is quite 
hardy and although introduced to cultivation in England in the 
seventeenth century has never been much planted. 

Other species of Diospyros are known to be good nectar sources 

i 129 


for the honey bee, including the American persimmon (D.vir- 
giniana) which is also seldom seen in cultivation in Britain. 

DEADNETTLE Lamium spp.: Labiatae 

Honey bees are sometimes to be seen around the flowers of dead- 
nettles, but the nectar is too deep-seated for them, only bumble 
bees being able to reach it. When punctures exist at the base of the 
flower, as sometimes happens, they may be able to obtain a certain 
amount. The flowers may also be visited for pollen, especially 
those of the red deadnettle (L.purpurea) so common everywhere in 
meadows, along roadsides and sometimes in masses on hedge 
banks. This plant commences to flower as early as February when 
few pollen plants are available and remains in flower throughout 
the summer. The pollen is a beautiful dark orange in colour. 

DIERVILLA or WEIGELIA Diervilla spp.: Caprifoliaceae 

These deciduous shrubs, which are allied to the shrubby honey- 
suckles, secrete nectar very freely. They are among the most beau- 
tiful of summer flowering shrubs with white, cream, pink, or red 
flowers of various shades. Bumble bees may be seen working the 
flowers with zest in June and frequently bite holes at the base of 
the flower which honey bees make use of to obtain the nectar. 

DISCARIA D.senatijolia: Rhamnaceae 

This deciduous shrub from Chile with long, excessively spiny, 
pendulous branches is not often seen in cultivation, although quite 
hardy. It bears clusters of small greenish-white flowers in June or 
July which are sweet scented and attract honey bees in large num- 

DODDER Cuscuta spp.: Convolvulaceae 

These twining parasitic plants are often to be seen attached to 
wild plants, such as gorse and heather. They may also prove 
troublesome pests with cultivated plants, especially clover and 
flax. There is evidence that the small fleshy flowers which appear 
from June onwards provide the honey bee with nectar (23). 

DOGWOOD Cornus spp.: Cornaceae 

Some of the many dogwoods in cultivation at Kew attract bees, 
especially the Siberian dogwood (C.alba var. siberica) sometimes 
grown in gardens. The 'Cornelian cherry' (Cornus mas) which is 
covered with yellow blossoms in February and March, does not 



appear to be very popular with bees in spite of its early flowering 
It may be visited more in some European countries (i). 

DORONIGUM Doronicum spp.: Compositae 

Bees visit the sunflower-like flowers for nectar and pollen. The 
most useful to the beekeeper are undoubtedly those that flower 
early in the spring, March onwards (such as D.plantagineum var. 
excelsum), which are in fact the most generally cultivated. The 
Doronicums are of vigorous growth, thrive in any soil, and are 
well suited for rough places and for naturalizing. Two species do 
in fact occur apparently wild in some parts of the country. 

DORYGNIUM D.rectum: Legumiiiosae 

The pink flowers of this small shrubby plant from southern 
Europe are freely worked for nectar at Kew in July. It does not 
exceed two feet in height, grows easily from seed and, like so many 
Mediterranean plants, succeeds on a light dry soil. 

DRACOGEPHALUM D.moldavica: Labiatae 

This is a small annual with blue and white flowers, resembling 
a Salvia and belonging to the same family. It is a native of eastern 
Siberia, but grows well in Britain. The crushed leaves are aro- 
matic and have been used in the same way as those of bee balm 
(Melissa) for rubbing inside skeps and hives to attract swarms (Bee 
World, 1931, 80). 

ECHINOPS Echinops spp.: Compositae 

The globe thistles or Echinops with their large prickly heads of 
blue flowers never fail to attract bees in the summer. The name 
Echinops is from Greek meaning 'like a hedgehog 5 , which is of 
course appropriate. There are eighty or more species of the genus 
and they occur in the wild state mainly from Spain and Portugal 
eastwards to India. Honey bees have been observed visiting the 
flowers for nectar, in company with numerous bumble bees and 
wasps, in the folio wing :E.banaticus (common in gardens) \E.exaUatus 
(Hungary, flowers white); E.niveus (Himalaya); E.ritro (Mediter- 
ranean region); and E.sphaerocephalus (south Europe). These 
thistle-like plants are well suited for herbaceous borders and 
shrubberies and are all of easy culture. 

Echinops sphaerocephalus has long been grown in gardens and gar- 
den forms or varieties such as giganteus and albidus exist. Many 
years ago this species attracted a good deal of attention among 

beekeepers, especially in the United States, where a Mr. H. Chap- 
man of Versailles, New York, planted about three acres of it. 
Glowing reports were circulated about the plant, which is un- 
doubtedly very attractive to bees, and from that time it became 
known as 'the Chapman honey plant' (19). This name is used by 
British beekeepers interested in bee plants. 

Although the plant attracts bees so much, some observers doubt 
whether it is really of great value as a nectar plant (9), the well- 
known American beekeeper Dr. C. C. Miller stating: C I never saw 
bees so thick on any other plant. But close observation showed that 
the bees were not in eager haste in their usual way when getting 
a big yield, but were in large part idle. It looked a little as if the 
plant had some kind of stupefying effect on them' (Gleanings in Bee 
Culture, Dec. 1918). 

It has been suggested that the Chapman honey plant makes a 
good apiary hedge or boundary plant if given two wires for sup- 
port, the dead stalks being left in position through the winter. 

In the individual flowers of this plant the nectar is secreted at 
the base and may rise in the corolla tube, which is 5-6 mm. long 
and largely occupied by the style, and overflow into the bell or 
expanded part of the flower. As this is split almost to its base into 
the corolla lobes or petals the nectar is easily available to honey 

ELDER Sambucus nigra: Caprifoliaceae 

The strongly scented flowers of the elder, which most people find 
unpleasant, are not normally visited by the honey bee and have 
been described as nectarless (u). The fact that they appear in 
June when there is usually an abundance of other pollen sources 
may be the reason why they do not even attract the honey bee for 
pollen. As the plant is so common everywhere, even to the extent 
of becoming a nuisance arid a pest in some districts, and flowers so 
freely, it is a great pity for the beekeeper that it is not a good honey 

ELM Ulmus spp.: Ulmaceae 

Elms are sometimes useful early sources of pollen, particularly 
when they happen to be growing in close proximity to an apiary. 
The purple clusters of small flowers appear in February or March 
and may pass unnoticed as they are so often on tall trees. Pollen is 
produced in abundance and is wind-borne. In favourable weather 
at this early season bees will often make good use of it. 



In California the introduced European elms are a valued source 
of pollen to beekeepers, the trees being c alive with bees' (23) in 
spring, when better bee flying weather is likely to prevail than in 

There seems to be some evidence that in warmer climates elm 
flo'wers may also be a source of nectar (23; 4). Later in the year 
the elm sometimes becomes a source of honeydew. 

ELSHOLTZIA Elsholtzia spp.: Labiatae 

Some good bee plants are to be found in this genus which be- 
longs to the mint family and should not be confused with Esch- 
scholtzia (Californian poppies) which belong to an entirely different 
family. The most interesting is perhaps a Chinese shrub (E.Staun- 
tonii) which was only introduced to cultivation in Britain in 1909, 
and which has acquired the name of 'heathermint' owing to its 
purple (heather-like) flowers and aromatic (mint-like) leaves. 
Much has appeared in regard to it in the American bee press. 

The shrub reaches five feet in height, needs full sunshine and 
grows in almost any soil except heavy clay. It is hardy in the south 
of England, the shoots often dying back in the winter, but fresh 
ones arising in the spring. It flowers freely in October or the end 
of September, producing clusters of fragrant flowers three to eight 
inches long, at the ends of the branches. In the individual flowers 
the funnel-shaped corolla tube is only about a quarter of an inch 
in length and well suited to honey bees who work it freely for 
nectar, as do bumble bees. Much depends, of course, on the nature 
of the weather so late in the year. It is undoubtedly a useful and 
ornamental late-flowering shrub for bees and well worth a place 
in the bee garden. 

Elsholtzia crispa, also from the Orient, is an annual one to one 
and a half feet high and better known in cultivation. It is also a 
good nectar plant (American Bee Journal, Nov. 1934). 

Elsholtzia cristata, which is an annual, is perhaps better known in 
cultivation and is another good nectar plant. It grows one to one 
and a half feet high and produces numerous lavender coloured 
flowers on one-sided spikes in the late summer which bees eagerly 
visit. The plant has aromatic leaves and is easily grown, requiring 
full sun. 

ENDIVE Cichorium endivia: Compositae 

When this salad plant is grown for seed or left neglected in the 

vegetable garden the blue flowers, which appear at intervals along 



the stem, are visited by bees for nectar. The flowers are not unlike 
those of chicory, a close relative of the plant. 

ERIGERON Erigeron spp.: Compositae 

These popular border perennials generally produce their flowers 
in July. They are pink or purple and rather like an aster. Among 
the better known of these 'fleabanes', E.speciosus, E.macranthus and 
E.multiradiatus have been observed to be freely visited by honey 
bees for nectar, as are doubtless many others. The first of these is 
perhaps the best of the taller kinds, reaching two and a half feet 
with masses of large purple flowers. 

ERODIUM Erodium spp.: Geraniaceae 

Known also as stork's bill or heron's bill, these plants are good 
nectar yieldcrs, as are the hardy Geraniums, their near relatives. 
Three species occur wild in Britain, generally most common near 
the sea, and others are cultivated in gardens. One of the wild 
species (E.cicutariwri) is very prevalent in parts of Europe and has 
become widely naturalized in North America, where it is known 
as pin clover or filarcc, and 'produces an abundance of pollen and 
considerable honey of good quality' (19). Another British species 
freely naturalized in other countries which has proved a good 
pollen and nectar plant, is the musky stork's bill (E.moschatum) (23). 

ESCALLONIA Escallonia spp.: Saxifragaceae (Plate 20} 

The Escallonias are a group of handsome shrubs, natives of 
South America. They arc mostly evergreen and several hail from 
Chile and Peru. Unfortunately the majority are too tender for 
most parts of Britain, except in the mildest parts or with the pro- 
tection of a wall. A number are good bee plants. They are more 
commonly cultivated in the south-western counties, especially 
E.macrantha, which is often used for hedges near the sea. 

Escallonia langlcyensis (a hybrid) is fairly hardy and grows well at 
Kew, where its pretty rosy red flowers are a constant source of 
delight to honey bees. The flowers appear in profusion in June and 
July, while a few may still be found as late as September. It is 
bushy, reaching eight feet or more in height with slender arching 
branches altogether a handsome shrub. Nectar is secreted freely 
at the base of the flower tube. 

EUCRYPHIA E.glutinosa: Eucryphiaceae 

This evergreen or partly evergreen shrub from Chile bears large 



solitary flowers in July and August. These are striking, with their 
pure white petals and masses of stamens. Bees visit them for 
pollen and for nectar. The shrub can hardly he described as com- 
mon in cultivation, probably because it is not among the easiest 
of plants to propagate and transplants badly. 

EUPATORIUM Eupatonum spp.: Compositae 

A number of rather coarse garden perennials belong to this 
genus, some better suited to the wild garden than the flower bor- 
der. For the most part they flower in the autumn. Bers work the 
flowers of a number of species freely for nectar and pollen Some 
of those that originated in North America are regarded as good 
bee plants there (19). 

Honey bees also visit the small flesh-coloured flowers of the soli- 
tary wild British species of Eupatorium, i.e. hemp agrimony (E.can- 
nabinum), a vciy common plant along streams and in moisl places 
generally. The flowers appear in dense terminal heads in July and 
August and are popular with butterflies, especially 'painted ladies' 
and 'red admirals'. 

EVENING PRIMROSE Oenothera biennis: Onagraceae 

This stately plant, in one or other of its many forms, is to be seen 
both in the flower garden and as a weed in waste places. It is a 
naturalized and not an indigenous plant. The large, attractive 
yellow flowers open in the evening. They are normally pollinated 
by night flying moths but bees often visit them, especially in the 
early morning in the summer for pollen. 

The pollen grains of the evening primrose are very large and 
easily visible to the naked eye. They are bound together by yellow 
threads (strands of viscin) which may sometimes be seen trailing 
on the legs of bees working the flowers. According to one observer 
(27) bees will sometimes settle on the flowers and drink from the 
drops of water that have collected there after a shower of rain. 
There are many varieties of evening primrose in cultivation. 

EYEBRIGHT Enphrasia qfficinalis: Scrophulariaceae 

The brightly coloured flowers of this variable little plant may 
receive the attention of the honey bee. It is common in all kinds 
of situations, including dry meadows and exposed hillsides or cliffs 
near the sea. Nectar is secreted by the lower part of the ovary and 
collects in the corolla tube. 



FALSE INDIGO Amorpha fruticosa: Leguminosae 

Honey bees make use of the purplish-blue flowers of this shrub 
for nectar and pollen. It is not often cultivated, being of a some- 
what clumsy, straggling nature. It reaches ten to fifteen feet in 
height, but is generally cut back to ground level by frost in winter 
in English gardens. The flowers appear in July in clusters and the 
foliage is ornamental. A native of the southern United States, this 
shrub is naturalized in some parts of Europe. 

FENNEL . Foeniculum vulgare: Umbelliferae 

The flowers of this herb attract bees and there are recoids of 
honey being obtained from it in other countries (23). It is often 
cultivated in gardens and smallholdings, the leaves being mainly 
used for flavouring fish sauces, especially for boiled salmon and 

Like most plants of this family the heads of small white flowers 
swarm with flies and other short-tongued insects who are able to 
get at the relatively exposed nectar but honey bees are not such 
frequent visitors as they are with many other plants. This was 
plainly visible in large plots of fennel grown for seed at Kew during 
the second world war, where flowering took place in June and 


The flowers of the wild fennel are similar to those of the culti- 
vated plant. It is common in many localities, especially near the 
sea where its bluish-green stems, and finely divided hair-like leaves 
makes it a conspicuous plant. 

FIG WORT Scrophularia spp.: Scrophulariaceae (Plate 22) 

Some of the wild figworts are first-class bee plants, their flowers 
secreting nectar very freely. The best known in this respect is the 
knotted fig wort (S.nodosa), so named on account of its knotted or 
tuberous roots. It is a coarse perennial plant, three to four feet 
high, found in woods and moist places, and bearing much-forked 
bunches of small globular flowers. These can hardly be termed 
attractive, being dull purple in colour and tinged with greenish- 
yellow. The nectar is secreted in large drops at the base of the 
corolla by a circular swelling, and is protected from rain. Some- 
times it collects to such an extent as to half fill the flower (27). 
Besides honey bees, wasps are very frequent visitors to the flowers. 
The water figwort (S.aquatica) which is very similar and grows by 
ditches and streams, is also a good nectar and pollen plant for bees. 



The yellow figwort (S.vernalis) is a smaller plant with more orna- 
mental flowers. It is in bloom in spring but is rare in most districts. 
An American figwort (S.marylandicd) closely allied to S.nodosa, 
has also a high reputation as a bee plant and as a profuse nectar 
yielder. Under the name of 'Simpson's honey plant' it attracted a 
great deal of attention at one time and was considered to be one 
of the best plants for artificial pasturage for bees. Honey bees were 
found to visit the flowers in a small field of the plant in great num- 
bers from morning till night. On an average each flower was visited 
at times at the rate of one a minute, and after the nectar was 
removed other drops would be secreted in about two minutes 


FLAX Linum usitatissimum: Linaceae 

The flax plant is cultivated in most temperate countries both for 
its seed, which yields linseed oil and linseed 'cake' for stock feeding, 
and for flax fibre, the raw material of the linen industry. It has 
been grown in Britain for many centuries, but linseed has never 
been the important crop that it is in other countries. The plant is 
an annual with an attractive blue flower. A field of linseed in full 
bloom is indeed a pretty sight. Bees visit the flowers, but it is 
doubtful whether they are ever important sources of nectar, al- 
though some observers report having seen the flowers visited very 
freely. One stated a seven-acre field of linseed had been a great 
attraction 'for the bees' morning shift' but that most of the petals 
had fallen by the afternoon (Gardening Illustrated, sgth August 
1941). The pollen grain of flax is a large spherical one with a^ellu- 
lar covering (27). 

The wild and the cultivated flax plants of the flower garden 
appear to be of about the same value as bee plants. 'Purging flax' 
(L.catharticurri) is a very common plant in meadows and on chalk 
hills and cliffs. It is in bloom from June to August and has small 
white, not blue, flowers. In these and other Linums the stamens 
are fused together at the base into a fleshy ring where the nectar 
is secreted in five drops. It is produced from five small pits or 

FLEA-BANE Pulicaria dysenterica: Compositae 

The yellow flower heads of this wild plant, rather like a small 
marigold, are visited by honey bees to some extent. They are 
available for a long period in most areas from July to September 
and are usually to be found near streams and in moist places. 



FORGET-ME-NOT Myosotis spp.: Boraginaceae 

The forget-me-nots, whether wild or cultivated, are always 
popular with bees. Among the wild kinds the field forget-me-not 
(M.arvensis] is the most abundant, its small sapphire flowers being 
common in fields and woods alike. A larger and more attractive 
flower is that of C.palustris, the true forget-me-not, and the plant 
which the legends refer to. It is also wild in many parts of Europe 
and known by the same name (e.g. Vergissmeinnicht' German). 
Its dainty blue flowers are most prevalent on the banks of rivers 
and streams. 

Where forget-me-nots abound the pollen of the plants is often 
very prevalent in honey. The reason given for this is that the 
mouth of the flower tube is very narrow and there is barely room 
for the bee to insert its proboscis. In doing so it is forced to dislodge 
a good deal of pollen which must get mixed with the nectar. The 
pollen grains of forget-me-not are exceedingly minute, among the 
smallest known in fact, and so arc probably drawn up with the 
nectar. They also get lodged in the hairs of the proboscis. The net 
result is that they reach the honey stomach in much greater quan- 
tity than is the case with the pollen of other flowers (Bee World, 

!943> 23). 

The pollen grains of forget-me-not may measure no more than 
three to four microns in length and compared under the micro- 
scope with large pollens such as crocus, mallow, hollyhock, etc., 
look rather like a marble next a football. In shape they arc not 
round, but appear as two small spheres joined together by a nar- 
row neck. 

FRAXINELLA Dictamnus albus: Rutaceae 

This European plant, a favourite in the flower garden in bygone 
days, is less grown now than formerly. It is also called candleplant 
and burning bush, as the oil secreted by the plant on hot calm days 
is inflammable. Bees visit the pale purple (or white) flowers for 
nectar and pollen. 

FRENCH HONEYSUCKLE Hedysarum spp.: Leguminosae 

The flowers of several kinds are visited by bees for nectar. Two 
of the best known in gardens are H.coronarium with red or white 
flowers, and H.obscurum, a much smaller plant with racemes of 
showy purple flowers. 



FUCHSIA F.megallanica: Onagraceae 

This South American plant is hardy in the milder parts of Great 
Britain and attains the dimensions of a small tree if unpruned. In 
less mild districts it may be killed to the ground in the winter but 
sends up fresh flowering shoots each year. In Devon and Cornwall 
and western Ireland it grows vigorously and has become natural- 
ized in some areas. It is quite commonly used there as a hedge 
plant, even for farm hedges, for it makes bushy compact growth 
and withstands the sea breezes. The red and purple flowers are 
rich in nectar which the honey bee is not slow to utilize. They are 
said to be an important source of nectar in Ireland. The pendant 
nature of the flower protects the nectar well from rain. At Kew 
beds of the plant attract bees in large numbers in August year after 
year. Honey from Fuchsia is described as very light in colour but 
of little flavour (American See Journal 9 1941, 252). 

GAILLARDIA Gaillardia spp.: Compositae 

Available in annual or perennial forms, this very popular garden 
plant is attractive to bees. They are often to be seen probing the 
flower heads for nectar or collecting pollen. Some varieties have 
the advantage of flowering more or less continuously throughout 
the summer. Gaillardia pulchella is one of the main honey producing 
plants of Texas (20). 

GALTONIA G.candicans: Liliaceae 

The white bell-like flowers of this Cape plant are reputed to 
attract bees freely (n). Known also as Cape Hyacinth, this tall 
bulbous plant is sometimes to be seen in English gardens. It is 
hardy in light soils and of easy culture. Flowering takes place in 
August and September, the nectar collecting at the base of the 
flower with six fairly deep nectar passages leading to it. 

GARRYA G.elliptica: Cornaceae 

The male catkins of this evergreen shrub are sometimes visited 
by bees for pollen. It grows best in the warmer districts Devon 
and Cornwall where the catkins reach a foot in length. 

GAULTHERIA G.shallon: Ericaceae 

This evergreen shrub of the heath family prefers moist shady 

spots and will grow in any ordinary garden soil, but does best in 

one of a peaty nature. It forms a dense low thicket and spreads by 



underground suckers. On account of its density it has been culti- 
vated for game cover in some parts of the country and so exists 
apparently wild. The pinkish-white flowers appear in May and 
June in small racemes or bunches. They are a good source of 
nectar and in its native land, western North America, the plant 
is regarded as one of the best honey plants, being commonly called 

GEUM Geum spp.: Rosaceae 

The geums of the rock garden and flower border are visited by 
bees, mainly for pollen. The same applies to the wild species. In 
the water avens (Geum rivale) large drops of nectar may be secreted 
on the receptacle of the flower, which honey bees procure from the 
outside (n). 

Gin A Gilia spp.: Polemoniaceae 

These hardy annuals with their colourful flowers of various 
shades are in bloom for a long time, and also last well in vases. 
In the milder districts they may be sown in the autumn for early 
blooming the following season, and in the bee garden are perhaps 
best grown in this way. In parts of North America, their original 
home, the wild Gilias arc useful sources of nectar, especially in 
burnt-over forest country, and yield surplus honey (23). Many 
Gilias are regarded as good nectar plants. Some yield pollen of a 
blue colour. 

GIPSYWORT Lycopus europaeus: Labiatae (Plate 6) 

Although not common in all parts of the country, this plant is 
prevalent in some areas, particularly along the margins of rivers 
and pools. The small white flowers are in clusters on the upper part 
of the stem and are present from June to September. They are rich 
in nectar which the honey bee has no difficulty in extracting, and 
are a useful late though minor source of nectar in some districts. 
Deeply cut leaves characterize the plant and the name gipsywort 
arose from the fact that gipsies used the root to stain their faces 

GLORY-OF-THE-SNOW Chionodoxa luciliae: Liliaceae 

This little plant, which comes from Asia Minor, is one of the 
most handsome of the early spring flowering bulbs and is quite 
hardy. Its blue and white or pure white flowers appear in March 
and April and are useful for early pollen and for nectar if plentiful. 


Any ordinary garden soil will suit it and it increases rapidly. 

GOAT'S RUE Galega qfficinalis: Leguminosae 

This perennial from southern Europe is often to be seen in gar- 
dens and has been listed as a bee plant (27). However, the writer 
has never observed honey bees visiting the pea-like flowers even 
on fine sunny days when bees have been flying freely. The pollen 
grains are very small, not much larger than those of forget-me-not 
(Myosotis) (27). Bumble bees sometimes visit the flowers for pollen. 

GODETIA Godetia spp.: Onagraceae 

In some instances the flowers of these everyday garden plants 
supply the hive bee with nectar and pollen. They vary much in 
size, shape and colour, while some have single flowers and others 

GOLDEN HONEY PLANT Actinomeris squarrosa: Compositae 

On the North American continent this perennial plant is widely 
distributed and has been favourably reported on as a honey plant 
(Canadian Bee Journal, May 1937). It grows best there on rich low- 
lands, reaching a height of five to eight feet and blooming in 
August and September. Its yellow flowers are freely worked by 
honey bees. As it is somewhat coarse in appearance it does not 
appear to have been grown in gardens in Britain, but is an in- 
teresting possibility for the bee garden. 

GOLDEN ROD Solidago spp.: Compositae 

There are about a hundred different species of Solidago or golden 
rod, the great majority of which are natives of North America, 
where they are important autumn honey plants. One species, 
however, Solidago virgaurea, is wild in Britain and is prevalent in 
some areas, particularly near heaths and on rocky banks and cliffs 
near the sea. The same species occurs freely in many European 
countries, especially southern Norway, where it is sometimes a 
dominant plant over large tracts of country. It grows in the poorest 
soils and produces its abundance of yellow flowers from July to 
October. These are very attractive to honey bees as well as to 
numerous other insects and must constitute a useful source of late 
nectar where they are sufficiently abundant. 

The same applies to the many garden forms of golden rod of 
American origin that are so popular in herbaceous borders and 
the shrubbery or wild garden where they are well able to hold 


their own with other plants. Some of these introduced kinds have 
become naturalized to some extent in Britain. The following golden 
rods, all North American, have been observed at Kew to be freely 
worked for nectar and pollen by honey bees late in the season: 
Solidago elliptica, S.graminifolia, S.latifolia, S.pilosa, S.puberula, S.Rid- 
dellii, S.rigida, S.Shortii. 

In many parts of eastern Canada and the United States golden 
rod and aster are the two important late season honey plants. 
Their main value is in providing winter stores for bees, but surplus 
honey is taken from golden rod in some areas. This is described as 
golden yellow in colour, thick and heavy and of fine flavour. The 
flavour improves markedly during ripening. It crystallizes in about 
two months with a coarse grain (20). Little is known regarding the 
nectar value of the actual individual species, but some contend 
that all golden rods will yield nectar under conditions favourable 
to them. However, in some parts of the United States where golden 
rod is common it yields little or no honey. Some contend that a 
fairly high temperature is necessary for a good nectar flow with 
golden rod (American Bee Journal, 1936, 592). 

GOOSEBERRY Ribes grossularia: Saxifragaceae 

The gooseberry occurs as a wild plant in the north of England. 
It is the progenitor or parent plant of the numerous varieties now 
cultivated with rough or smooth, green, yellow, red or purplish 
berries. The gooseberry has been cultivated in Britain for many 
centuries, every cottage garden, however small, having its own 
gooseberry bushes at one time. These sometimes attain a large size 
and great age, fifty years or more. 

The leaves of the gooseberry are among the first to show signs of 
growth in early spring, and the greenish-white, inconspicuous 
flowers are generally out in April. These are attractive to honey 
bees for their nectar, which is secreted at the base of the bell- 
shaped flower, and is protected by the hairs projecting from the 
style. The hairs may impede other insects but offer no obstruction 
to the hive bee. The flower is in fact well constructed for its visits. 
Surplus honey from gooseberries may be obtained from hives 
near fruit farms where gooseberries are extensively grown, but this 
probably rarely occurs. However, such honey has been described 
as medium coloured and of excellent flavour (27). It has been 
found that where currants and gooseberries are interplanted 
with cherries, as is sometimes done, bees may desert the currant 
and gooseberry flowers in favour of those of the cherries (Royal 



Horticultural Society Journal, LI, 231). The gooseberry is regarded 
as a better nectar plant than the currant. The pollen of the goose- 
berry is not produced in great abundance and is pale greenish- 
yellow in colour. It is not in separate granules like that of the 
common tree fruits, but is stuck together in glutinous masses. That 
of the currant is similar. It is collected as a 'side line' while bees 
work for nectar. 

GORSE Ulex europaeus: Leguminosae 

The prickly gorse or furze bush with its familiar yellow flowers 
is one of the commonest of British plants and covers many thou- 
sands of acres of moors, commons and hcathland, particularly in 
the south of England. It thrives on poor light sandy soils, often 
coming up freely wherever soil is disturbed and is to be found in 
flower throughout the year as a rule. However, spring (April) is 
the main flowering period, when the bushes are covered with their 
golden blossoms. 

Gorse flowers arc undoubtedly a useful standby for pollen for 
beekeepers in many parts of the country. Whether they supply 
nectar as well is rather open to question, but the opinion of careful 
observers is that they probably do at certain times. However, it is 
for pollen that the plant is mainly of value. This is produced in 
abundance and is bright yellow or orange in colour, assuming a 
darker or duller shade in the bees' pollen baskets (8). In the early 
spring it is especially useful. Flowers often commence to appear 
freely as early as February, and so may take the place of willow and 
hazel in other districts. Bees commonly forsake gorse once other 
flowers become available. 

The dwarf gorse (Ulex nanus] (Plate 23) is also very common on 
heaths and commons in the southern counties. It differs from or- 
dinary gorse in its more trailing habit, smaller size and smaller 
flowers, the latter being about half the size of ordinary gorse and 
probably more easily worked by the honey bee. It flowers from 
June to December, generally freely in September when those of 
ordinary gorse are mainly over. In company with heather or ling 
(Callund) it is the main source of ppllen in August and September 
in some heathland areas (e.g. Bagshot, Surrey) the two pollens 
being often found mixed in bees' pollen baskets (Miss Betts, Bee 
World, October 1935). 

GOURDS Cucurbitaceae 

All the gourd plants are useful sources of nectar and pollen to 


the honey bee. They include vegetable marrows, pumpkins, cu- 
cumbers, squashes, melons and the ornamental gourds sometimes 
grown in gardens for their decorative value or quaint appearance. 
Only the first of these can be said to be commonly or generally 
cultivated out of doors in Britain (see vegetable marrow, cucum- 
ber, etc.). 

GRAPE Vitis vinifera: Vitaceae 

The grape is now seldom grown seriously in the open in Britain, 
the climate being too humid for it and the plant better suited for 
the warm dry summers of the Continent. There were vineyards in 
the milder parts of Britain in earlier days, mainly at monasteries, 
but with the arrival of cheap glass and glass-houses out-door culti- 
vation was gradually dropped. 

The flowers of the grape are small and inconspicuous, but their 
strong fragrance, suggestive of mignonette, compensates for this. 
The structure of the flower is interesting in that the five petals 
remain united at the lop and become detached at the base, falling 
away as a cap. The stamens produce very little pollen. Alternating 
with them are five nectaries. These secrete nectar in warm, but 
apparently not in cold climates. In grape growing countries honey 
bees may collect nectar and pollen from the vineyards. When the 
grapes are ripe the juice of damaged fruit may also be freely col- 
lected when nectar is scarce. This sometimes ferments in the hive 

GRAPE HYACINTH Muscari spp.: Liliaceae 

The pretty blue flowers of these ever popular spring bulbs are 
very attractive to bees early in the year and yield pollen and nec- 
tar, the nectar being secreted in the septal glands of the ovary. 
There are many different kinds of grape hyacinth in cultivation. 
All are of the easiest culture and hardy, which is rather surprising, 
seeing that they are for the most part of Mediterranean origin. One 
species (M.racemosum) occurs wild in some parts of the country but 
is not common. 

GRASSES Gramineae 

Grasses are essentially wind pollinated plants, without nectar, 
and yield a light powdery type of pollen. Bees do not seem to 
favour this type of pollen as a rule when others are available. 
However, they do sometimes collect pollen from grasses. There are 



many well authenticated cases of this. Probably any grass produc- 
ing pollen freely may be visited, but the two grasses often con- 
cerned are cock's foot (Dactylis glomerata) and meadow foxtail (Alo- 
pecurus pratensis). The last mentioned has been observed to be 
worked for pollen at Kew in May, a time when numerous other 
pollen sources are available in the area, which goes to prove there 
is no accounting for the ways of bees. 

GREENWEED Genista tinctorial Leguminosae 

The yellow gorse-like flowers of this plant attract the honey bee 
for pollen at times, but do not appear to yield nectar. It is often 
common on clay soils. The young tops were at one time used for 
dying wool, hence the name 'dyer's greenweed' by which it is 
known. An allied plant 'petty whin' (G.anglica) that occurs on 
moors and heaths is also worked for pollen. 

GRINDELIA Grindelia spp.: Compositae 

This group of North American plants, with yellow flower-heads 
one to two inches across, have been grown in English gardens but 
are not generally cultivated. The most interesting from the bee- 
keepers' point of view is perhaps the gum or rosin weed (G.squar- 
rosa), common in the southern U.S.A. and a source of honey of 
somewhat inferior flavour and granulating very quickly (23). This 
plant when grown at Kew is much sought after for nectar. The 
flower heads are covered with a peculiar milky gum. 

GROMWELL Litkospermum spp.: Boraginaceae 

Both the wild and garden species of gromwell or borage- worts 
(mainly rock garden plants with blue flowers) are sometimes visited 
by hive bees, and often flower in great profusion. Nectar is secreted 
by the ovary and collects at the base of the corolla tube, which in 
the case of the corn gromwell (L.arvense) is 4^ mm. long. They are 
probably nowhere of special importance as honey plants. The corn 
gromwell, bearing white flowers in May and June, occurs as a 
weed in cultivated ground. 

GROUND IVY Jfepeta (Glechoma) hederacea: Labiatae 

This plant, which is common in so many different situations, 
and often to be seen trailing in masses from old walls and on dry 
banks, may be in flower very early in the year, sometimes towards 
the end of February. Honey bees visit the flowers for nectar and 

K 145 

pollen (27) but these are not borne in great profusion and are 
probably of little importance. 

GROUNDSEL Senecio vulgaris: Compositae 

This is perhaps the commonest weed of cultivation, and few 
gardens are without it. It may be in bloom early and late in the 
year. Some writers (27) state hive bees visit the flowers, but they 
do not seem to offer much attraction, and at most seasons of the 
year are entirely neglected. 

GYPSOPHILA Gypsophila paniculata: Caryophyllaceae 

The myriads of tiny white flowers of this well-known perennial 
are visited by honey bees for nectar in July and August. This 
applies only to the single form and not to those with double 
flowers. The flowers of Gypsophila repens, a small perennial of the 
rock garden, also attract bees, as may those of other Gypso- 

HAWK'S BEARD Crepis pp.: Compositae 

These plants, with flowers like those of a small dandelion, are 
common weeds of cultivated ground. Hive bees visit the flowers for 
nectar and pollen in July and August but they can only be re- 
garded as very minor sources in most areas. 

HAWK'S BIT Leontodon autwnnalis: Compositae 

Like the hawk's beard the yellow flowers of this plant are also 
visited by bees throughout the season. 

HAWKWEED Hieracium spp.: Compositae 

Honey bees have been observed collecting nectar and pollen 
from some of the many different kinds of hawkweed (especially 
H.pilosella and H.umbellatum) that are so widely distributed through- 
out the country. 

HAZEL Corylus avellana: Betulaceae 

Like the hawthorn the hazel is very widespread throughout the 
country but avoids acid peaty soils, and even extends to the ex- 
treme north of Scotland. In oak and ash woods it is common, 
being often grown for coppicing, and flourishing best on calcareous 
soils where pure thickets or copses of it may occur. 
It is as an early source of pollen that the hazel interests the bee- 



keeper. The tassels of male flowers are conspicuous from late 
January until early March according to season and district. They 
yield an abundance of a light yellow powdery pollen, that bees 
will collect eagerly in suitable weather when hazel bushes are near 
their hives. It is unusual for them to visit bushes a long way from 
home at this early season. The flowers are wind pollinated and not 
dependent on insect visits for fertilization. They are available for 
quite a long period, usually about a month, but this is governed 
by weather conditions at flowering time. 

In some parts of the country, notably Kent, hazel-nut and cob- 
nut orchards exist. The varieties grown in these orchards are 
fundamentally the same with regard to flowering as the wild hazel 
bushes except that the tassels are sometimes much longer. 

HELENIUM Helenium spp.: Compositae 

The yellow or bronze flowers of this perennial attract bees in 
large numbers for nectar and pollen. Their value in the her- 
baceous border is mainly for autumn flowering, when they keep 
company with golden rod and Michaelmas daisies. Some of the 
newer dwarf kinds such as 'crimson beauty' and 'Moorheim 
beauty' flower earlier and for a longer period. A bed of these plants 
will swarm with bees all day in good weather. 

The value of the Helenium to the beekeeper in Britain, however, 
can only be the same as that of other autumn garden flowers in 
helping to build up stores for the winter. It is interesting to note 
that in their native land, North America, some Heleniums have a 
reputation for yielding bitter honey, a small quantity of which will 
spoil other honey, although as a winter food for bees it is perfectly 

HELIOTROPE Heliotropium spp.: Boraginaceae 

The delicate fragrance always associated with the garden helio- 
trope is well known and it is not surprising that honey bees should 
think the flowers worth a visit. Some of the varieties used for bed- 
ding at Kew are a great attraction to bees for nectar in August. 

HELLEBORE Helleborus spp.: Ranunculaceae (Plate 25) 

These hardy perennials, which bloom in the winter or early 
spring when there is little else in flower, are attractive to bees on 
those occasions when the weather is sufficiently mild for them to 
fly. They fall into three groups white, green and red flowered. 


The old fashioned, white flowered Christmas Rose (H.niger), is 
the first to flower and may be in bloom at Christmas. Other kinds 
flower in sequence finishing with the red flowering sorts in the 

The two wild British species, H.viridis (the green hellebore) and 
H.foetidus, although hardly garden plants, are useful for the wild 
garden, flowering in March. Both yield nectar freely (27). The 
flowers of all hellebores are interesting in that the petals are modi- 
fied into raised funnel-shaped nectaries, which hold the nectar 
perfectly, like miniature vases. What appear to be the petals of the 
flower are actually the coloured sepals. This same ingenious type 
of nectary is also to be seen in the winter aconite, another early 
spring flowering plant of the same family. 

HEMP NETTLE Galeopsis tetrahit: Labiatae 

Bees visit the flowers of the hemp nettles, but only for pollen, the 
nectar being too deep-seated. The common hemp nettle with its 
purple flowers is sometimes prevalent in the stubble of cornfields 
and is in bloom from July onwards. 

HENBANE Hyoscyamus niger: Solanaceae 

This important drug plant does occur wild or semi-wild in 
Britain but is not common, nor is it generally regarded as a bee 
plant. It may be grown on a field scale for medicinal purposes. 
When this was done during the second world war honey was said 
to have been stored from it in one instance. The field in question 
was cut while in flower and several workers got stung in the pro- 
cess. Bees kept returning to the bare patch where the plants had 
recently been. The honey alleged to have been obtained from it 
was of quite good flavour but crystallized very soon. 

HERACLEUM Heracleum spp.: Umbelliferae 

These coarse-growing perennials usually attract attention on 
account of their large size and commanding appearance but are 
better suited for odd corners rather than the flower border. Bees 
visit the flowers and compete with numerous other insects for the 
nectar. The plants can only be regarded as second-rate bee plants, 
although sometimes recommended. Heracleum giganteum and 
tezazzianum, a giant species from the Caucasus, ten feet high with 
flower heads a yard across, are among those that have attracted 
attention in this respect (Bee World, 1925, 154). 


The common hogweed or cow parsnip (H.spondylium) of the 
hedges and meadows is visited occasionally for pollen. 

HEUGHERA Pleuchera spp.: Saxifragaceae 

These tufted perennials are usually grown for the sake of the 
leaves rather than for their flowers. Bees have been observed visit- 
ing the flowers for nectar. 

HIBISCUS Hibiscus syriaceus: Malvaceae 

This shrub exists in numerous cultivated varieties but the species 
is the only one that is hardy in the climate of Britain. Flowers may 
be white or any shade of red, blue, purple or striped, and vary in 
size up to four inches across. They do not appear until late in the 
season but may be visited for pollen. 

HOLLY Ilex aquifolium: Aquifoliaceae 

The holly is the commonest evergreen tree in the United King- 
dom and is to be found throughout, except in the extreme north. 
It is abundant in woods, especially in the west country, where the 
wet climate seems to suit it. It more often occurs as a shrub than 
a tree, although trees with large trunks do occur. The holly is also 
found wild in most countries of Europe. 

Flowering takes place in May or June but the small fragrant 
white flowers, in clusters in the leaf axils, are by no means con- 
spicuous and would pass unnoticed by some people. They secrete 
nectar freely and this is much sought after by the honey bee to 
whom it is easily accessible. Holly is probably a much more useful 
nectar source than many English beekeepers realize, especially as 
it may be in flower between fruit blossom and clover. It is un- 
fortunate that the flowering period is rather short, generally two 
to three weeks, and that the trees or bushes do not always flower 
freely. The holly is strange in this respect for sometimes a tree will 
flower well on one side or on some branches but not on the others, 
or some trees will flower freely while others in the same area and 
a few yards away have hardly any flowers at all. 

It is generally agreed that holly makes the best hedge under 
English conditions in spite of the many plants introduced from 
other countries in the last 100 years. Its one drawback is its slow 
growth. Nevertheless it is extensively planted for hedges. Unfor- 
tunately for the beekeeper, when grown as a hedge, the periodical 
clipping prevents flowering. The flowers of the many varieties of 
holly with variegated leaves or other characteristics that are seen 

in gardens are probably of similar value for nectar as the wild type 
and attract bees in the same way. 

Some of the American hollies that have been cultivated in this 
country are good honey plants in their native land, such as Ilex 
opaca and Lglauca (inkbcrry or gallberry). The latter has been 
described as one of the best honey plants of the United States, 
especially Georgia, the honey being 'light amber, very heavy and 
very mild and pleasant in flavour' (20). 

HOLLYHOCK Althaea rosea: Malvaceae 

Flowers of single hollyhocks afford regular feasts for the honey 
bee as every observant beekeeper knows. It is not unusual to see 
two or three bees in a single flower at the same time. The pollen 
is the main attraction and this seems to be of a kind that is par- 
ticularly to their liking. Late in the season, when pollen is in 
demand and the number of sources daily diminishing, it is not 
unusual to find flowers stripped of every vestige of pollen as soon 
as it appears. When working hollyhock flowers bees often arrive 
at the hive dusted all over with pollen or bearing a distinct white 
mark on the back of the thorax as though white-washed. Besides 
yielding pollen the flowers are also worked fur nectar to some 

The pollen grain of the hollyhock, often present in the honey of 
urban or suburban beekeepers, is interesting on account of its 
large size (100 microns or more in diameter as against three to four 
microns in forgct-mc-not) . 

Various other species of Althaea have been observed to be worked 
for pollen and nectar at Kew, including A.ficifolia (Siberia), A.tau- 
rinensis (north Italy), A.cannabina (Orient) and A.officinalis (the 
marsh mallow). 

HONESTY Lunaria biennis: Cruciferae 

This old-fashioned plant remains popular in gardens both for its 
sweet-scented purple flowers and silvery flat seed-pods that are 
used for winter decoration and often coloured. It flowers early, in 
April or May, and bees are known to visit the flowers for pollen or 
nectar but not so freely as in most Crucifers where the nectar is 
more easily obtained. 

HONEY LOCUST Gleditschia triacanthos: Leguminosae 

The fragrant flowers of the honey locust are useful for nectar to 



beekeepers in its native land (North America) although seldom a 
source of surplus honey and not so important as the black locust 
(Robinia pseudoacaciasee Acacia). This tree is sometimes to be seen 
in cultivation and always creates interest on account of the long, 
branched, woody spines on the trunk. These do not develop as 
well here as in warmer climates such as the south of Europe, where 
it is sometimes grown as a hedge. 

HONEYSUCKLE Lonicera spp.: Caprifoliaceae 

The flowers of the honeysuckle or woodbine (Lonicera peridy- 
menurri), so prevalent in thickets and hedgerows, and so much loved 
for their fragrance and beauty, are of little avail to the honey 
bee for the nectar is out of reach owing to the long narrow flower 
tube. How freely the ncctai is secreted every child knows, for who 
has not revelled in plucking the flowers and sucking the sweet nec- 
tar from them. Sometimes the base of the flower is punctured by 
bumble bees in which case the honey bee may partake of the 
crumbs of the feast. Most of the climbing honeysuckles seen in 
gardens also have their nectar out of reach. 

Besides the climbing honeysuckles there arc a number of shrubby 
or bush honeysuckles in cultivation. In some of these the flower- 
tubes are quite short. Among them is the fly honeysuckle (L.xylo- 
steum) from Europe which is naturalized in parts of Britain. It has 
a flower-tube of only some 3 mm. in length, and honey bees are 
known to frequent the flowers for nectar. Other species that bees 
visit are L.standishii 9 from China (Plate 26), L.purpusii (a hybrid) 
and L.tartarica (from Central Asia). The two first mentioned are 
particularly valuable for early pollen, for they flower in February. 
In some seasons at Kew the flowers are humming with bees, 
whereas in other years the blossoms may be destroyed by frost, or 
the weather may be against bees visiting them. The Japanese 
honeysuckle (L.nitidd), a popular hedge plant, is a useful source of 
nectar to bees in some countries but in most parts of the British 
Isles this shrub does not flower. 

HOP Humulus lupulus: Urticaceae 

The hop plant or vine occurs wild in some parts of England and 

is grown in gardens as an ornamental climber. It is the parent of 

the many different varieties of hop that are grown on a large scale 

for brewing purposes. 

The flowers or cones appear in July and are sometimes visited 

by bees for pollen but are of no special value in this respect. The 


plant is a wind pollinated one. In some instances (25) the flowers 
have been referred to as a source of nectar but there is much doubt 
in regard to this. 

HOP TREE Ptelea trifoliata: Rutaceae 

This small tree is wild in southern Canada but has been culti- 
vated in Britain since as far back as 1704. It is sometimes to be 
seen in gardens, the curious seed-pods always attracting attention. 
These have been used in home-brewed beer. Small greenish-white 
flowers appear in clusters in June and July. They are scented and 
very attractive to honey bees for nectar, the whole tree humming 
with them at flowering lime. The flowering period is short and 
may barely exceed a week in hot weather. In the eastern U.S.A. 
the tree is widely distributed and reputed to be a good honey plant 
in favourable seasons. 

HOREHOUND Marrubium vulgare: Labiatae (Plate 5) 

There are two horchounds, the black and the white, the latter 
being the better bcc plant. White horehound was much esteemed 
as a medicinal plant in earlier days and always found a place in 
the herb garden. The dried leaves are still used by herbalists, 
mainly for making infusions for coughs and colds. In the wild state 
the plant is not common and usually occurs in waste places. It is 
a bushy plant with stems one to two feet high, the stems and leaves 
being covered with a white woolly down giving the plant a greyish 
appearance. The small white flowers appear from July to Sep- 
tember in dense whorls or clusters on the stem. They are rich in 
nectar and much loved by the honey bee. The plant is well worth 
a place in the bee garden, bees often preferring it to other 

Black horehound (Ballota nigrd] is a common plant in hedges 
and along roadsides. It has wrinkled leaves and purple flowers, 
also in clusters. Bees visit the flowers but not nearly so freely as 
with white horehound. The corolla tube is rather long (7 mm.) for 
the hive bee but as the mouth is wide enough for the head to be 
partly inserted the nectar may be reached. The plant is com- 
mon in Europe and naturalized in other countries, including 

HORNBEAM Carpinus betulus: Betulaceae 

The yellowish-green catkins are occasionally visited for pollen 



only, but the tree is of little account to the beekeeper. It may be a 
minor source of honeydew in some seasons. 

HORSE-CHESTNUT Aesculus hippocastanum: Sapindaceae 

The horse-chestnut is perhaps the most commonly planted of the 
larger ornamental trees in Britain, although a native of south- 
eastern Europe. It is a good bee plant with its masses of blossoms 
produced in the latter part of April or May, for these are well 
worked for pollen and nectar. 

Close study of the horse-chestnut in flower will show that the 
flowers present are of three kinds, male, female and hermaphrodite. 
Most of the flowers are male with rudimentary ovaries, a few only 
purely female and the perfect or hermaphrodite flowers chiefly at the 
base of the infloresence. The nectar is sometimes clearly visible and 
is secreted at the base of the flowers between the stamens and the 
claws of the upper petals. It is protected by woolly hairs. In work- 
ing the flowers for nectar the honey bee frequently gets at the nec- 
tar from the side of the flower or from behind. The nectar guides 
on the petals are at first yellow but later turn dark red. The flower- 
ing period generally lasts for about a month but the petals remain 
attached and unfaded long after the stamens have withered and 
the flower ceased to secrete nectar. It may be observed that bees 
do not visit such flowers. 

Horse-chestnut pollen is very distinctive on account of its bright, 
almost brick-red colour. Bees returning to their hives with loads of 
reddish-brown pollen in their pollen baskets when the horse- 
chestnut is in flower are a common sight, and familiar to most bee- 
keepers in or near towns. Sometimes the bees themselves look as 
though they have been sprinkled with brick dust as they enter with 
their loads. 

Various other horse-chestnuts are cultivated and seem to be 
equally popular with the honey bee, except of course the double- 
flowered forms. The variety praecox that comes into leaf and flower 
about two weeks before the ordinary form is of interest and worth 
bearing in mind by anyone contemplating planting trees for bees. 
The red horse-chestnut (Aesculus camea, a hybrid) flowers about a 
fortnight later than the common horse-chestnut and the blossoms 
are freely worked. So also are those of the Indian horse-chestnut 
(A.indica) (Plate 19), a magnificent tree from the Himalayas, not 
yet much grown in Britain but quite hardy, at least in the south. 
It flowers three weeks to a month later than the ordinary horse- 
chestnut and so is a source of nectar and pollen during the early 



summer or 'dearth period' that is so obvious to beekeepers in many 
parts of the country. The Californian buckeye (A.californicd) 
flowers later still (July-August) and the blossoms are much visited 
by bumble and hive bees. This species yields honey in California 
but is suspected of poisoning or causing paralysis in bees. 

HYACINTH Hyacinlhus orientalist Liliaceae 

The ordinary hyacinth, so popular for forcing and for growing 
indoors in bowls, is attractive to bees when grown outside in the 
flower border. It is in flower early and is visited for nectar and 
pollen. The nectar is secreted in an unusual manner. Instead of 
being produced at the base of the flower it is secreted in three large 
drops from three nectaries appearing as dots near the apex of the 

HYDRANGEA Hydrangea spp.: Saxifragaceae 

The ordinary garden hydrangea (PLhortensis) with blue or pink 
flowers does not usually attract bees very much, for the bulk of the 
flowers in the flower-head arc of the sterile type. There arc other 
hydrangeas, less ornamental perhaps, that are sometimes culti- 
vated and which are of more use to the honey bee. The best known 
is probably Hydrangea petiolaris, a deciduous climber from Japan, 
that attaches itself to walls and trees by means of aerial roots just 
as ivy does. Its large, white flower-heads, up to ten inches across, 
appear in June when the inner fertile florets are sometimes freely 
worked by hive bees. The plant is useful for covering old tree 
trunks, walls, mounds, etc. 

HYSSOP Hyssopus qfficinalis: Labiatae 

This fragrant herb from the Mediterranean region, the oil of 
which has been used in perfumery and the leaves in salads, grows 
well in England and is sometimes planted as an edging. There are 
several varieties of it, with blue, red or white flowers, which are 
out from June to October. It looks well with catmint and these 
may be backed by lavender and rosemary by the lover of bee 
plants, thereby providing a useful quartette! 

Bees revel in the blossoms, helping themselves to nectar and pollen. 
The corolla tube is some 10 mm. in length, but as it widens into a 
funnel in the upper part the honey bee is able to reach the nectar. 

IVY Hedera helix: Araliaceae 

The ivy and the honeysuckle are the two most common and 



widespread British climbing plants. Ivy is to be seen clinging to 
the trunks of trees in all classes of woodland except on acid soils 
and is very prevalent as ground cover, on rock surfaces and old 
walls, the plants sometimes attaining huge dimensions. 

The small greenish-yellow flowers of ivy appear very late in the 
year, from the latter part of September as a rule until hard weather 
appears. They are an excellent source of nectar and pollen to the 
honey bee, and where they are prevalent and the weather is warm 
enough for bees to work them they may make a welcome contribu- 
tion to the hive's winter stores in both honey and pollen. It is the 
last important nectar and honey plant of the season to be available 
to bees. In mild winters fresh flowers may be found on the plants 
right up to Christinas. 

As if to make up for the lateness of the flowers and the difficulty 
bees might have in driving off the moisture from the nectar and 
converting it into honey the nectar happens to be very concen- 
trated. It is produced very freely sometimes and may even drip 
from the flowers. If insects are excluded, the base of the flower may 
be covered with a sugary crust after the flower has faded, so rich 
is the nectar in sugar and so lavishly is it produced. The nectar is 
actually secreted by a yellowish-green disc surrounding the styles 
and is freely exposed. It provides an open feast for all manner of 
insects besides the honey bee. Carrion flies are often common 
visitors, attracted by the strong, somewhat unpleasant odour of the 
flowers. Little nectar is secreted by the freshly opened flowers but 
it increases as the flower ages and reaches the 'female' stage. 

The pollen of ivy is dull yellow in colour and the individual 
grain heavily granulated (27) . Honey from ivy is said to be greenish 
in colour with a pleasantly aromatic flavour. 

JACK-BY-THE-HEDGE Sisymbrium alliaria: Cruciferae 

The white flowers of this well-known wild plant are visited by 
bees for nectar, which is secreted in four drops at the base of each 
flower. Known also as hedge garlic on account of the strong smell 
when bruised this plant is very prevalent in hedges and ditches. 
Other species of Sisymbrium are visited for nectar, such as hedge 
mustard (S.qfficinale) and flixweed (S.sophia). 

JAGOBAEA Senecio elegans: Compositae 

These hardy annuals, which are available in so many colours, 
will attract bees and are generally in flower from May until July 
if sown at intervals. 



JACOB'S LADDER Polemonium caemleum: Polemoniaceae 

This bright little perennial is popular in flower borders and rock 
gardens. It also occurs in the wild state, mainly in the north of the 
kingdom, but is rare. Bees have been observed industriously work- 
ing the blue flowers for nectar and pollen. The latter is a bright 
orange when packed in the bee's pollen baskets. Flowers of other 
species of Polemonium are also visited. 

JAPONIGA Chaenomeles lagenaria: Rosaceae 

The Japonica or Japanese quince, also referred to as Cydonia 
japonica, is one of the popular early flowering shrubs, especially 
for walls, that are useful to the beekeeper. The blood-red flowers 
may appear as early as Christmas in some cases but usually not 
until February or early March. Flowering extends over a long 
period, often till June. It is mainly for pollen that the flowers are 
visited but bees have been observed at Kew obtaining nectar in 
warm weather later in the season. Many varieties of this hardy 
oriental shrub exist, with white, pink or salmon flowers. 

JUDAS TREE Cercis siliquastrum: Leguminosae 

This handsome small tree from the Mediterranean region has 
been cultivated in the south of England for several hundred years, 
and owes its name to the fact that it is generally supposed to be 
the tree on which Judas hanged himself after the Betrayal. It 
grows best in the milder parts of the country flowering between 
April and June as, or before, the young leaves appear. It is then 
very picturesque, the purple flowers being borne in profusion, 
often in clusters on the old wood. These may be used in salads. 

Bees visit the flowers freely for nectar but the trees are never 
sufficiently common to be of much consequence. An allied species 
('red-bud'; C.canadensis) is common in the south-eastern United 
States and is a good early bee plant there, but does not provide 
surplus honey (19). 

JUNEBERRY Amelanchier canadensis: Rosaceae 

The Canadian Juneberry or Serviceberry has been cultivated in 
Britain for 200 years and is naturalized in some areas. It usually 
flowers in April and is then a mass of white, the flowers being 
followed by edible fruits ripening in June. While the blossoms may 
be visited for pollen they do not appear to be especially attractive 


to bees or to be worked for nectar as a rule. In its native land it 
seems to be of some nectar value. 

KALMIA Kalmia spp.: Ericaceae 

These shrubs, which are mostly evergreen and like peaty moist 
soils, are often to be seen in gardens and have become more or less 
naturalized in some instances. The species most generally grown 
is the sheep laurel (K.angustifolia) which may form thickets fifteen 
feet across through sucker growth and bears clusters of rosy red 
flowers in June. This and the calico bush (Kdatifolid), also much 
cultivated and one of the most beautiful of evergreen shrubs, are 
both considered to be useful nectar plants in their native land 
(eastern North America), although the latter has been credited 
with being a source of poisonous honey. 

KOELREUTERIA K.pantculata: Sapindaceae 

This large tree from northern China is not often seen in cultiva- 
tion. It produces panicles or loose bunches of yellow flowers at the 
ends of the branches in July and August and these may be heavily 
worked for nectar by honey bees. 

LAUREL Prunus laurocerasus: Rosaceae 

The cherry laurel, one of our most useful and quick growing 
evergreens, is much visited by bees at times. It flowers in April but 
bees may be seen visiting it more or less at any time, particularly 
when ordinary nectar is scarce. This they do for the sake of the 
sweet fluid secreted from the extrafloral nectaries on the under 
surfaces of the leaves, particularly the young growth. Bushes may 
sometimes be found humming with bees working in this way. The 
writer has found this very noticeable in early June in an area near 
Bagshot Heath where there has been little other bee fodder avail- 
able at this time. 

The Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica], which flowers later, and 
the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) are also visited by bees. The latter is 
well known for its sweet scented leaves often used for flavouring 
milk puddings. Its small greenish-yellow flowers appearing in May 
or June are rich in nectar and attract the hive bee (4). 

LAURUSTINUS Viburnum tinus: Caprifoliaceae 

This much grown ornamental shrub flowers mainly in the winter 
months, between autumn and early spring. Its pinkish white 



flowers are fragrant and in dense bunches. On fine days in early 
spring they may be visited for pollen by bees but do not seem to 
attract much attention later in the year. In view of its prevalence 
in southern gardens this well-known evergreen is doubtless a useful 
early pollen source to urban beekeepers. The pollen is of a pale 
slate grey colour in the bees' pollen baskets. 

LAVATERA Lavatera spp.: Malvaceae 

There are annuals, biennials, and perennials among the lava- 
teras or tree mallows. All have the same type of flower structure 
and yield pollen in abundance which honey bees readily make use 
of. They also obtain nectar. In the milder districts L.arborea is one 
of the best of the taller perennial kinds and an imposing plant. It 
grows to ten feet in height. 

LAVENDER Lavandula spp.: Labiatae 

It is common knowledge that the fragrant blue flowers of laven- 
der are always a great source of pleasure to the honey bee and that 
much joyful buzzing always accompanies their visits. June and 
July are the months when the flowers are at their best in most dis- 
tricts. The flowers produce nectar freely which is stored at the base 
of the flower and protected by a ring of hairs. The flower-tube of 
the usual garden lavenders is about 6 mm. long a suitable length 
for the hive bee. 

Lavender needs to be grown in full sun and does best on light or 
chalky well-drained soils. These are the conditions in many parts 
of southern Europe where the plant occurs wild over large tracts 
of country and supplies good quality honey. This has been described 
as dark, of very pleasant flavour, and granulating with a grain 
almost as smooth as butter (American Bee Journal, 1937, 412). Along 
with the orange and rosemary it is one of the three most important 
honey plants in many districts in Spain. 

Lavender is sometimes grown on a field scale in England (e.g. 
Hitchin, Herts) for perfumery purposes, and should afford oppor- 
tunities for nearby beekeepers. Unfortunately the flowers have to 
be harvested while still in their prime. 

LEPTOSIPHON Leptosiphon spp.: Polemoniaceae 

These brightly coloured annuals which are closely allied to the 
Gilias and often included with them are attractive to bees (9). 
They may be sown at intervals in the spring and summer. 



LILAC or SYRINGA Syringa spp.: Oleaceae 

The sweet scented flowers of this favourite ornamental shrub 
secrete nectar freely but in most varieties the flower tube is too 
long for the honey bee. When nectar is produced abundantly it 
may rise from 2-4 mm., or even more in the flower-tube, and so 
become within reach of the hive bee. Under such conditions honey 
bees may be seen working Lilac. Honey bees have been observed 
working the masses of pink flowers of Syringa tomentilla (from 
western China) at Kew on occasions. There are also reports that 
S.reflexa (from central China) has been much worked in parts of 
Germany (Bee World, 1938, 62). 

LILY Lilium spp.: Liliaceae 

Lilies are essentially Lepidipteroid flowers, being often visited 
by moths at night. Pollen is produced abundantly and is often 
bright coloured. Occasionally honey bees make use of it. 

LILY-OF-THE- VALLEY Convallaria majalis: Liliaceae 

The honey bcc is known to visit these sweet-scented flowers but 
only for pollen (11). They appear in May arid June when there 
are many other, possibly more appetizing, sources of pollen avail- 
able. The plant occuis wild in most parts of Europe as well as in 

LIMNANTHES L.douglasii: Geraniaceae 

This California!! annual has long been grown in English gardens 
and its attractiveness to bees when grown in the mass realized. It 
is also invariably included in the collections of seeds of bee plants 
that are sometimes listed in seedsmen's catalogues. If a few odd 
plants only are grown in the flower border they often prove dis- 
appointing and bees do not visit them. The plant has a somewhat 
straggling habit but is quite well suited for edgings, beds and rock- 
eries. Any soil suits it but a moist situation is preferable. For early 
spring flowering seed should be sown in September and for summer 
flowering in March. 

The yellow and white flowers are sweet scented and varieties 
differing in size and colour exist. The names 'butter and eggs' and 
'meadow foam' have been applied to them. Under favourable con- 
ditions they produce nectar freely and are well liked by bees. It is 
considered a good nectar plant, especially for stimulative purposes, 
in its native land (23). 



LOGANBERRY Rubus hybrid.: Rosaceae 

The Loganberry was introduced to Great Britain in 1900 from 
the United States where it had been raised by Judge Logan of 
Santa Cruz, California, in 1881 by crossing the wild dewberry with 
a raspberry. Through seedling plants it has not always kept true 
to type and other berries like the 'Phenomenal berry' and 'Laxton- 
berry' have been derived from it. With proper management the 
Loganberry will succeed on all manner of soils but gives the highest 
yields on deep rich loams. 

The flowers are rich in nectar and resemble those of raspberries 
with which they are probably on a par as bee fodder, for they are 
frequented continually by bees in suitable weather during the 
period of several weeks when they are available in the early 

LOOSESTRIFE Lythrum salicaria: Lythraceae (Plate 32) 

The purple loosestrife is one of the most handsome of British 
wild plants and is to be seen in all parts of the country, especially 
where soil conditions are moist as on the edges of pools, streams 
and ditches. In such situations it often forms a vivid patch of 
colour on the landscape. It is two to four feet in height with flower- 
ing spikes about a foot long bearing rich purple-red flowers from 
June to August. The flowers are of interest in that the length of 
stamens and styles varies in different plants as docs the pollen from 
them. This may be yellow or greenish with large or small indivi- 
dual grains. 

Purple loosestrife is a good bee plant and supplies nectar and 
pollen in quantity. Unfortunately it is seldom sufficiently abun- 
dant for 'surplus' in Britain but the honey is said to be dark with 
a strong flavour (27). The plant is plentiful in most parts of Europe 
and is widely naturalized elsewhere, e.g. Australia and North 
America. There are also many garden forms of it with flower 
spikes larger and of a different shade. These are equally attractive 
to bees. 

The yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), an entirely different 
plant, is only of interest to the honey bee for pollen. 

LUCERNE Medicago saliva: Leguminosae 

Lucerne or alfalfa as it is sometimes called is not the important 

crop in Britain that it is in other countries. It has, however, been 

grown to a greater extent in recent years both for hay and green 

1 60 




PLATE 25, Two attractive to 



When In full flower in late summer the fragrance may be detected 

yards away and bees swarm over the blossoms all clay 


PLATE 26. Two plants the Orient freely visited by 

in favourable 


fodder. This has been mainly in the southern counties, especially 
in chalk districts, as the plant favours lime soils. 

This clover-like plant is perennial and once established yields 
several cuts in a season, the plants lasting for many years. In the 
moist conditions of Britain the plant appears to make more leafage 
than it does in other countries and is cut before flowering, whether 
for hay or fodder, otherwise the plants become too fibrous. Some- 
times three or even four cuts may be made throughout the sum- 
mer, all before any flowers at all have a chance to appear. So the 
crop may be quite useless to the beekeeper. In some cases, how- 
ever, there are flowers available to bees later in the season and 
these may prove a useful source of nectar, particularly towards the 
end of hot dry summers (14). 

jSelf sown lucerne plants arc sometimes to be seen in flower by 
the sides of paths and fields. 'Their purple flowers do not appear to 
attract bees much until later in the year when other sources of 
nectar become scarce. 

Lucerne or alfalfa honey is known to vary much according to 
locality but is of good quality and generally resembles clover honey 
but with a more spicy flavour and tendency to granulate early. 

Other plants allied to lucerne that the honey bee visits for nectar 
are Cossack alfalfa (Medicago media), Siberian or yellow lucerne 
(M.falcata), toothed medic (M.denticulatd) rather rare, and black 
medic or yellow trefoil (M.lupulina). The last mentioned is widely 
distributed in Britain, being most prevalent on limestone soils. 
Seed is often included in seed mixtures for grassland, especially for 
temporary leys on light or chalky land. Flowering is generally 
earlier than is the case with white or red clover, the small yellow 
flower-heads being followed by distinctive black seed pods. The 
flowers are often very freely worked for nectar. 

LUPINE Lupinus polyphyllus: Leguminosae 

The flowers of most cultivated lupines are generally regarded as 
nectarless (n), honey bees and bumble bees visiting them mainly 
for pollen, the latter with its greater weight being better able to 
manipulate the flowers. The flowers are of little account as far as 
the beekeeper is concerned. 

MAGNOLIA Magnolia spp.: Magnoliaceae 

Magnolia flowers are not conspicuously attractive to bees. They 

are of course only to be seen in gardens and are probably visited 

mainly for pollen. It is interesting to observe that two of the North 

L 161 


American species commonly grown in Britain (M.grandiflora and 
M.glabra) are reputed to be useful sources of nectar in their native 
land (19). 

MAHONIA Mahonia aquifolium: Berberidaceae 

This low growing evergreen shrub, with its holly-like leaves, is 
much cultivated on account of its ability to withstand shade and is 
naturalized in some parts of the country. Its grape-like fruits, 
which may be used for jelly, although bitter, account for its other 
common name- Oregon grape. It is in flower for several weeks 
commencing early in April and its small yellow blossoms are 
worked moderately by bees for nectar. 

MAIZE %ea mays: Graminfae 

Maize or Indian corn is rarely grown in England except for 
silage although sweet corn, which is but a form of it, is more ex- 
tensively cultivated than formerly. The male flower heads or tassels 
furnish an abundance of pollen which is sometimes collected by 
bees. Usually, however, there are numerous other (probably more 
palatable) sources of pollen available when they appear and they 
arc ignored. There have been cases of bees collecting insect honey- 
dew from the plants (23). There also seems evidence that under 
some conditions (rapid growth) the leaf sheaths may split exposing 
a certain amount of sweet sap or juice which bees collect (American 
Bee Journal, 1936, 82). 

MALLOW Malva sylvestris: Malvaceae (Plate 28) 

Although 'just a weed' the common mallow is a handsome plant 
with its large mauve flowers. These are to be seen at their best from 
June to August when they always find favour with bees, not only 
for pollen but for nectar also. The pollen is white or very pale 
mauve in colour. Bees often get themselves covered in it and the 
top of the thorax quite white as if daubed with white paint. The 
pollen grain under the microscope is spherical, rough and excep- 
tionally large, as is not unusual in members of this family (see 
hollyhock). Its diameter may be as much as 144 microns (u) as 
against 3-4 in forget-me-not, 8 in goat's rue (Galega) and 30-35 
in white clover. 

The musk mallow (M.moschatd) and dwarf mallow (M.rotundi- 
folia) are other wild species that are useful to bees and are in 
flower until frosts arrive. The former is a particularly handsome 
plant with rosy pink flowers and is sometimes listed among collec- 



tions of bee plants in seedsmen's catalogues. A white-flowered 
variety of it is also cultivated. 

MALOPE Malope trifida: Malvaceae 

1'his showy annual that originated in southern Spain attracts 
bees. It is best sown where it is intended to flower and well thinned. 
The varieties generally cultivated ( c grandiflora') have white, crim- 
son and flesh-coloured flowers. 

MAPLE Acer spp.: Aceraceae 

There are about a hundred different species of maple distributed 
more or less throughout the northern hemisphere. As a group they 
are good bee plants, producing nectar freely and supplying early 
pollen. The open nature of the flower enables the honey bee to 
have easy access to the nectar, but as most maples flower very 
early in the season (March-April) the extent to which bees arc 
able to make use of them is largely dependent upon suitable bee 
weather at the time. 

The only maple native to Britain is the field maple (A.campestre) 
often to be seen as a small tree on calcareous soils and common in 
hedges, where it may be coppiced. When allowed free growth it 
often reaches fifty to sixty feet in height. Its bunches of upright, 
delicate green blossoms appear in April or May and produce nec- 
tar freely. This is secreted by a thick fleshy central disc and is 
freely exposed as in other maples. If the tree were more common it 
would doubtless be valuable to the beekeeper, as is the sycamore 
(see Sycamore). 

A number of different maples are frequently to be seen in cul- 
tivation as ornamental trees, usually for their foliage, which may 
be attractively cut or give yellow or reddish tints in autumn. 
Among the maples that have been observed by the writer to be 
worked for nectar the following are among the better known: the 
Italian maple (A.opalus), very free flowering and often grown as a 
street tree; Norway maple (A.platanoides)\ Montpelier maple (A. 
monspessulanum); Oiegon maple (A.macrophylluin)\ Box elder ( 
gundo)\ and sugar maple (A.saccharum). The last three are natives 
of North America where they are valuable for early nectar and 
pollen in many areas (19). 

MARJORAM Origanum mdgare: Labiatae (Plate 28} 

Wild marjoram is one of the best known and best loved of English 

wild flowers with its delightful fragrance and masses of purple 



flowers. It favours calcareous soils and is very common on chalk 
hills in the south of England, often dominating the landscape when 
in flower. This takes place from July onwards. The flowers are in 
crowded clusters at the ends of the stalks, which vary from one to 
two feet in height. Honey bees are frequent visitors for nectar and 
this is yielded abundantly at times. Honey is not usually obtained 
pure from this plant in England as there are generally other nectar 
yielding flowers available at the same time, such as the blackberry 
and wild thyme. However, it is considered to yield a high quality 
honey of good flavour and aroma and its presence is always likely 
to improve rather than detract from the quality of other honey, 
particularly that of willow-herb which is naturally a honey of little 
flavour (14). Willow-herb is in flower at the same time as mar- 

In gardens it is sweet or knotted marjoram (O.marjorana) and pot 
or perennial marjoram (O.onites) that are generally cultivated, 
their aromatic leaves being used either in the fresh or dried state 
for flavouring. They are much used for soups and for stuffings. 
Sweet marjoram is a native of North Africa, and is grown as an 
annual in Britain as it does not withstand the winter. Plants grown 
from seed sown in April usually flower in July. The flowers are 
small and pale, with the flower tubes about 4 mm. long. They are 
much soughl after by bees for nectar. 

MARSH MARIGOLD Caltha palustris: Ranunculaceae 

The marsh marigold is common in moist pastures and by the 
sides of streams. It always prefers damp situations as the name 
implies. The flowers, which might be those of a giant buttercup, 
are among the first of the wild flowers and sometimes appear as 
early as February, continuing until June. Honey bees are frequent 
visitors for pollen and nectar, the latter being half concealed and 
secreted, sometimes quite abundantly, in two shallow depressions 
at the base of the flower (i i). There are garden forms of the plant, 
some with double flowers. 

MAYWEED Anthemis cotula: Composilae 

The mayweed or stinking chamomile as it is sometimes called, 
on account of its strong odour, is not considered of much account 
as a bee plant in Britain, in spite of its prevalence, for it is one of 
the commonest weeds. However, it is interesting to note that in 
parts of the United States, where it has become an equally common 
weed, it is esteemed by beekeepers and even credited with giving 







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surplus honey, which is described as light yellow and very bitter 
(20). Its value there is largely on account of its flowering during 
dearth periods between spring and summer. 

MEADOW SAFFRON Colchicum autumnale: Liliaceae 

Although hardly a common wild plant the meadow saffron is of 
interest on account of its medicinal value. It also causes poisoning 
in cattle. Bees are known to visit the large purple flowers that 
appear in August or September for pollen. 

MEADOWSWEET Spiraea ulmaria: Rosaceae 

The dainty, sweet scented flowers of this very common meadow 
plant are often visited by bees for pollen. They are common from 
June to August. When working the flowers for pollen the honey 
bee returns with her pollen loads distinctively greenish in colour. 
There is doubt whether the flowers arc also a source of nectar in 
Britain, but in Europe bees have been observed working them for 
nectar (u) (Bee World, 1939, 83). 

MEDLAR Mespilus germanica: Rosaceae 

Although a much prized fruit with our forefathers, room is sel- 
dom found for the tree in present-day orchards and gardens. Some 
fine old trees, picturesque with their crooked branches, may often 
be seen in old gardens. The large white flowers that appear in May 
are not unlike those of the apple and atti act the honey bee for 
nectar and pollen. The nectar is secreted by a fleshy yellow ring 
at the base of the flower. A wild form of the medlar exists in 
thickets but is rare. The cultivated tree is nowhere sufficiently 
common to be of any consequence to the beekeeper in Britain but 
is of more account in other countries, e.g. Portugal. 

MELILOTUS Melilotus spp.: Leguminosae (Plate 7) 

Melilotus or sweet clover, also known as Bokhara-, bee-, or 
honey clover, is well known to most beekeepers. The very name 
of course suggests honey (mel honey; lolus flower). This is ap- 
propriate for it is always attractive to bees and an important honey 
producing plant in many parts of the world, and has been re- 
nowned as a bee plant from classical times. 

There are two kinds of sweet clover commonly seen, the white 
(M.alba) and the yellow flowered (M.ojficinalis}. They are con- 
sidered to be of equal value as bee plants. Both occur wild or as 
occasional weeds in Britain. They may also be grown as decorative 


plants in gardens or for fodder or hay. Unfortunately for bee- 
keepers, however, sweet clover has never been extensively grown 
as a farm crop in the United Kingdom, objections to it being its 
somewhat fibrous or woody nature and the fact that stock do not 
take to it readily owing to its bitterness and require to be 'educated' 
to it. However, these objections must apply in other countries, but 
have not prevented its becoming a major agricultural crop in 
them. Sweet clover has, however, proved useful as a green manure 
on thin sandy soils (e.g. the Breckland), the decay of its large 
fleshy roots contributing to soil fertility apart from the stems and 

Both white and yellow sweet clover are biennials and do not 
flower until the second year. They then have a long flowering 
season. This commences in June or July, when numerous flowers 
appear on the tall, much-branched stems. These are rich in nectar 
and invariably swarm with bees. The white flowered species 
(M.alba) is the one usually grown for agricultural purposes. It is 
the taller and more vigorous plant, producing more leafage. It 
flowers about a fortnight later than the yellow but does not stand 
cutting back so well. Both grow readily in all types of soil, except 
the very acid, and often thrive where few other plants will grow, 
such as the banks of quarries, railway embankments, etc. White 
sweet clover usually grows five to six feet high but may reach 
eight to ten feet under good conditions. 

The honey from sweet clover is of good quality, being light in 
colour although often greenish. It is of medium density, with a 
pleasant mild flavour, slightly vanilla-like. Granulation takes place 
more readily than with ordinary white clover (Trifolium repens). 
The honey is known to vary from different districts and has been 
accused of causing mild headache in some individuals owing to the 
presence of coumarin. The pollen is very like that of ordinary 

The history of white sweet clover in the United States is of in- 
terest. It first appeared as a weed and was actually scheduled as 
a noxious weed in some States. Later it began to be grown to a 
small extent as a pasture and hay crop, beekeepers being known 
to scatter seeds on the edges of fields and along roadsides, surrep- 
titiously and by night so we are told (19)! Eventually it was cul- 
tivated on an intensive scale in the mid- West region and became 
the source of vast quantities of honey, regions of hot dry summers 
being best suited for honey production. It was even the cause of 
derelict farms and land being restored to prosperity. In more 



recent years, however, its cultivation has declined owing to pests 
and diseases, particularly the sweet clover weevil. Other crops 
have now taken its place over wide areas to the detriment of bee- 

Many varieties of sweet clover have appeared from time to time 
and new ones are likely to arise as a result of breeding work being 
done on the crop. One of the first to arouse interest, about a quar- 
ter of a century ago, was Hubam clover, an annual form of white 
sweet clover. Agricultural trials with it in England were dis- 
appointing for it produced no more leafage than other clovers, 
was less robust than the ordinary sweet clover and subject to attack 
by the turnip flea beetle in the seedling stage. It was also inclined 
to revert to the original biennial form. Other varieties that have 
attracted attention arc 'Alpha' sweet clover, which grows about 
four feet high with numerous thin stems (about thirty) instead of 
a solitary thick stem, and 'Melana' sweet clover, an annual form 
of it (American lice Journal, Dec., 1932). The last mentioned has 
grown well with the writer, remaining in flower for a long period 
and proving very attractive to bees. 

Another Melilolus sometimes found in waste places in Britain is 
M.indica. It is cultivated in some countries as an agricultural crop 
or orchard cover and is a good nectar plant. It is an annual and 
often known as King Island Melilot. In parts of Australia it has 
become a weed and caused trouble through the seeds tainting or 
giving a hay-like smell to bread when they occur as an impurity in 
wheat. Milk and cream have also been affected by the plant. 

MESEMBRYANTHEMUM M.edule: Aizoaceae 

This Cape plant is now naturalized on cliffs along the coast in 
some parts of Devon and Cornwall and is often to be seen in cul- 
tivation at south coast seaside towns to cover and maintain banks 
and other exposed places. It soon carpets the ground with its 
creeping stems and fleshy leaves. The large showy flowers only 
open in the sunshine when they attract honey bees in numbers for 
nectar and pollen. The closely allied 'ice-plant' (M.crystallinum), 
often cultivated, has been recorded as a good bee plant in warmer 
climates where it grows freely out of doors. Honey from it is said 
to granulate very quickly (23). 

MICROMERIA M.rupestris: Labiatae 

The small white flowers of this low growing plant from southern 

Europe are a great attraction to bees for nectar from July onwards. 



Having no special horticultural charm it is not in general cultiva- 
tion. With its prostrate stems which turn up at the ends when in 
flower giving a heath-like effect, it is suited for the rock garden. 
The leaves are scented and with its abundance of late flowers it is 
worth a place in the bee garden. It is a good bee plant at Kew 
and the same has been recorded of it elsewhere (American Bee Jour- 
nal, 1933, 393)- 

MIGNONETTE Reseda odorata: Resedaceae 

Few garden plants can compare with mignonette for fragrance 
and few can excel it for attracting bees when in full bloom on a 
fine morning in a good-sized bed. For continuous blooming seed 
should be sown at intervals in the spring and summer. Besides the 
common kind a selection may be made from the coloured (red and 
yellow) and dwarf forms. Nectar is the main attraction but pollen 
is collected also. Bees visit the flowers all day long. Some think 
mignonette is capable of giving more blossom and more nectar for 
a given area than any other plant. 

The wild mignonette (R.lutea] which is such a common plant on 
chalk hills and in flower from June to August is also a good source 
of nectar and pollen to the honey bee, but is probably nowhere 
sufficiently abundant for surplus. Unlike its garden counterpart, 
that originated in Egypt, the flowers have little fragrance. 

MILKWEED Asclepias syriaca: Asclepiadaceae 

Although not generally cultivated in Britain this economic plant 
is of interest to beekeepers. Besides being a good source of nectar it 
is also a potential yielder of seed-floss (kapok substitute), fibre, and 
even rubber. It has been grown for seed floss in the United States. 
The plant grows readily in Britain, reaching four to five feet in 
height and flowering freely. Like other members of the family the 
pollen is in two masses (pollinia) connected by a strand. These 
strands may become entangled in bees' legs and in allied species 
in central Europe are believed to be the cause of heavy mortality 
among honey bees (Bee World, 1937, 71). Good honey has been 
obtained from this source. 

MILKWORT Polygala vulgaris: Polygalaceae 

The common milkwort, often so prevalent on chalk downs with 
its purplish flowers in May and June, is reputed to be visited by 
honey bees but is probably of little consequence as a bee plant. Its 

1 68 

pollen grain is unusual in shape and beautifully marked (27). 

MINT Mentha spp.: Labiatae 

The various mints, wild and cultivated, arc all good bee plants 
and yield nectar freely. It is rarely however that they occur in 
sufficient abundance to yield suiplus honey. The fields of mint that 
are grown for culinary purposes are normally harvested before 
they flower which is unfortunate for the beekeeper. At least eight 
different kinds of mint arc grown commercially in Britain, many 
of them hybrid forms. Among the wild mints two of the most 
common arc water mint (M.aquaticd) (Plate 22) and field mint 
(M.arvensis) (Plate 14). Both flower late in the season, from August 
onwards, and arc a useful source of late nectar for bees in districts 
where they gro\\ freely. The former sometimes occurs in masses 
near streams, as in parts of East Anglia, and the latter is common 
in corn stubble after harvesting. Pennyroyal (M.pulcgiun) with its 
more straggling habit may occur freely in and around bogs. It is 
often to be seen in gardens, especially rock gardens, in one or other 
of its many forms. Pennyroyal has become naturalized in other 
countries and is a source of honey in New Zealand where it has 
spread to the extent of becoming a weed. The honey from it is 
pale in colour and rather thin. 

Spearmint (M.spicata) and peppermint (M.pipenta) are some- 
times cultivated on a field scale and surplus honey has been ob- 
tained from them. It is amber in colour with a'minty flavour when 
fresh but this becomes less noticeable in time (23). 

MOCK ORANGE Philadelphus spp.: Saxifragaceae 

The highly scented flowers of the mock orange are known to 
attract honey bees for nectar and pollen (i i) but not as a rule in 
large numbers. There are many different kinds in cultivation, 
some with double flowers. 

MOTHERWORT Leonurus cardiaca: Labiatae (Plate 5) 

This plant is sometimes to be seen apparently wild, but is neither 
common rior indigenous in Britain. It is prevalent in parts of 
Europe and is regarded there as a good honey plant. One writer 
refers to its long flowering season, from July onwards, and con- 
siders it better than phacclia, borage and sweet clover as a nectar 
plant (Leipziget Bienenzeitung, Feb. 1933). It reaches three feet in 
height, has characteristic palmate lower leaves and white or pur- 



plish-pink flowers on the stem. The flower tube is only some 4 mm. 
long and the pollen white. 

Motherwort is now extensively naturalised as a weed in other 
countries, especially Canada and the U.S.A. where it is also very 
attractive to bees (19). Nectar may be secreted very freely. 

MOUNTAIN ASH Sorbus aucuparia: Rosaceae 

The rowan or mountain ash is a characteristic wild tree of the 
north and west of Britain. It is also much planted as an ornamental 
tree on account of its feathery foliage. The bunches of greenish- 
white flowers generally appear in May and June and are visited 
by the hive bee for nectar and pollen, but not with much enthusi- 
asm or zest as a rule. 

MYROBALAN Prunus cerasifera: Rosaceae 

The myrobalan or cherry-plum is a well-known small tree in 
gardens and is sometimes used as a hedge plant or as a stock for 
grafting plums. It is among the first deciduous tiees to flower and 
is prized on this account, trees being covered with the pure white 
blossoms in March. The purple myrobalan (variety pissardi) which 
originated in Persia is similar but has purple leaves and pale rose- 
coloured flowers. It is very commonly cultivated on account of its 
foliage often as a street tree. The flowers of both these cherry- 
plums are worked by the honey bee for nectar and pollen when 
weather is suitable and arc a useful early source of provender. 
They may be in flower even before the almond in February in 
early seasons. 

MYRTLE Myrtus communis: Myrtaceae 

Although so well known for its fragrance and use in bridal bou- 
quets this 'classical' plant is only hardy in the milder parts of the 
country. It is often to be seen as an evergreen shrub in gardens in 
Devon and Cornwall and produces white flowers in late summer. 
These yield pollen and perhaps a little nectar for the honey bee. 

NASTURTIUM Tropaeolum spp.: Geraniaceae 

The many dwarf and climbing forms of this popular garden 
annual may be visited by hive bees, but only for pollen, the nectar 
being out of reach. 

NEMOPHILA Nemophila spp.: Hydrophyllaceae 

Among the most easily grown of annuals, the nemophilas thrive 



in any soil. They are well suited for edging and small beds, being 
of compact growth. The best displays arc probably obtained in the 
north and the cooler parts of the country. The flowers, with their 
many shades of blue, are favourites with the honey bee for nectar. 
Autumn and successional spring sowings give a longer flowering 

NETTLE Urtica dioica: Urticaceae 

The common stinging nettle, with its small inconspicuous 
flowers, is of no interest or value to the bee, but may interest the 
beekeeper, for nettles have been advocated for obstructing the 
entrances of hives that are being robbed, the effect being said to 
be almost like a continual wetting until the leaves wilt (Bee World, 

NEW ZEALAND FLAX Phormium tenax: Liliaceae 

Attempts have been made to grow this plant on a commercial 
scale for fibre in England but without much success. However, it 
is often to be seen growing as an ornamental plant. Bees visit the 
flowers for nectar. 

NIGELLA Nigella spp.: Ranunculaceae 

The nigellas (love-in-a-mist) are yet another group of popular 
garden annuals that are visited by bees for nectar and pollen, but 
usually only in a moderate degree. The flowers are interesting in 
having an unusual type of nectary and nectar secretion. 

NIGER SEED Guizotia abyssinica: Compositae 

The plant yielding nigcr seed, a small black seed used in bird 
seed mixtures and in some countries as an oil seed, appears to be 
a good bee plant. Its flowers are well worked for nectar at Kew in 
the late summer. The plant is not in general cultivation. 

NIPPLEWORT Lapsana communis: Compositae 

This is a common plant in some areas, by hedges and roadsides, 
and produces its pale yellow flower heads, rather like those of the 
sow thistle, from July onwards. Bees sometimes visit them, par- 
ticularly late in the season when other bee forage becomes scarce. 

NUTTALIA N.cerasiformis: Rosaceae 

Although not generally cultivated, this deciduous shrub is of 

interest on account of its early flowering (February-March) and 


the zeal with which bees work its white almond-scented blossoms 
for pollen when opportunity occurs. These are produced in great 
profusion. The shrub eventually forms a thicket several feet across 
and six to eight feet high with numerous stems from the base. It is 
quite hardy in Britain although a native of California, where it is 
called 'oso berry'. Male and female flowers are on different plants, 
the latter producing plum-like fruits which are purple when ripe. 
The flowers are a source of nectar as well as pollen. 

OAK Quercus spp.: Fagaceae 

The wild and cultivated oaks arc of little consequence as bee 
plants, although bees do sometimes collect pollen from them. This 
is produced in April or May, when many other sources are avail- 
able. There arc reports of nectar from the oak, but this has prob-i 
ably been insect honcydcw. The oak is the host plant of a very 
large number of different kinds of insect, including many gall 
insects. In some years it becomes a troublesome source of honey- 
dew, especially late in the season. 

OLE ARIA O.hastii: Compositae 

This bushy evergreen shrub is often seen in gardens and is one 
of the few New Zealand shrubs that are hardy in Britain. It flowers 
in July and August. The flower heads arc visited by bees for nectar 
and pollen, but only to a limited extent. The shrub is to be seen 
at its best in coastal districts. 

OLEASTER Elaeagnus spp.: Elaeagnaceae 

The sweet-scented blossoms of several different oleasters have 
been observed to be much frequented by hive and bumble bees in 
June. However, it is doubtful whether the former are able to ob- 
tain much nectar from the flowers of these shrubs owing to the 
length of the flower tube. 

OLIVE Olea europaea: Oleaceae 

The olive is little more than a curiosity in Britain and can only 
be grown in the mildest parts or with the protection of a wall in 
the south. In Spain it is a well-known source of honey. 

ORCHIDS Orchidaceae 

There are records of the honey bee visiting wild British orchids 

(e.g. Orchis latifolia and O.morio). Some orchids secrete nectar in 

abundance, but often it is out of reach of the hive bee. In any case 



Aster sp. 



PLATE 29. Two sources of 'winter stores" for the 

urban beekeeper 




PLATE 30. visit for 


they are not sufficiently plentiful to be of any consequence to the 

OXYDENDRUM O.arboreum: Ericaceae 

For those situated in heath or peaty areas this small tree from 
the eastern United States may be of interest for it thrives under the 
same conditions as azaleas and rhododendrons. Bunches of white 
flowers are produced in July and August. These are an important 
source of high quality honey in its native home, where it is known 
as sourwood or sorrel tree, owing to the acidity of the leaves (20). 

PAGODA TREE Sophora japonica: Leguminosae (Plate 26) 

The so-called Japanese Acacia or Pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) 
is a handsome tree of Oriental origin sometimes cultivated for 
ornament in Britain and elsewhere. It bears masses of sweet- 
scented cream-coloured flowers in September, which fall while still 
fresh, literally carpeting the ground. Flowering lasts for about a 
month and the flowers arc actively worked by honey bees for both 
nectar and pollen. They must constitute a useful late food source 
for the bees. In good flowering seasons at Kew trees have been 
observed alive with bees, the busy hum being audible several yards 
away, bees even buzzing about the carpet of fallen flowers. 

The tree is one of the last to blossom in the year. Unfortunately 
it is rather uncertain as a honey plant in Britain, for after poor or 
wet summers it hardly flowers at all. Another drawback is that it 
does not commence to flower until thirty or forty years of age. It 
has been recorded in Europe that the flowers poison bees, and that 
beekeepers at Marienfeld in the Banat are in the habit of moving 
their hives from the vicinity of the trees at blossoming time to 
avoid mortality (Bee World, 1923, 7). No sign of poisoning has been 
observed at Kew during several seasons' observation, which sug- 
gests that this may be climatic. Honey from the tree in France is 
said to have a pronounced flavour (4). 

Other species of Sophora are worked by bees, notably S.viciifolia 
a handsome June-flowering, prickly shrub, six to eight feet in 
height. It is also a native of China where it covers extensive tracts 
of barren country just as gorse does in Britain. 

PARSNIP Peucedanum sativum: Umbelliferae 

Both the wild and the cultivated parsnip of the vegetable garden 

are known to be sources of nectar to the honey bee. The wild plant 

has a tough fibrous root quite unlike the large fleshy root of its cul- 


tivated relative, but the leaves and flowers are similar. It is abun- 
dant in many parts of the country, and is to be seen around fields, 
in hedgerows and meadows, and on sea cliffs. 

Its bunches of yellow flowers are present from July to September, 
and are visited by all kinds of insects, including the honey bee. It 
would appear that nectar is not usually present in abundance, and 
that it is unusual for it to be of any consequence as a nectar source. 
One beekeeper in Surrey relates how a twenty-acre fallow field at 
the back of his house, which was covered with the plant, gave a 
good crop of honey in one year, but in the four previous years he 
had hardly seen any bees on it (Bee World, 1931, 114). 

Where the garden parsnip has been grown on an extensive scale 
for seed purposes, crops of honey have been obtained. This has 
been described as light amber in colour, but not of the best quality, 
with a flavour slightly suggestive of the source from which it was 
obtained, and as being inferior to that from celery. The pollen is 
greenish-yellow and the individual grain long and narrow (27). 

PEA Pisum sativum: Leguminosae 

The flowers of the garden pea are not of much interest to the 
honey bee as a rule, but in some instances they are believed to be a 
source of nectar. Possibly the variety grown and the size of its 
flower may have some bearing on the matter. 

PEA-TREE Caragana arborescens: Leguminosae 

The Siberian pea-tree is a large deciduous shrub ten to fifteen 
feet in height. It is often cultivated and there are many garden 
varieties. In May or June it bears yellow pea-like flowers singly on 
the stems. At Kew the flowers are attractive to bumble bees, but 
it is not often that hive bees are seen in their vicinity. It is reputed 
to be a good bee plant in Canada (Ontario), and to be well suited 
foi poor soils and as a hedge plant (Canadian Bee Journal, Dec., 1940) . 

PEACH Pruntts persica: Rosaceae 

Like its near relative the almond, this fruit tree flowers early and 
is a source of nectar and pollen. It is of some importance to bee- 
keepers in warmer climates, but in Britain is only to be seen 
occasionally on walls or in glass-houses. The 'flowering peaches' 
seen in gardens usually have double flowers which open two to 
three weeks later than the almond. Bees have been successfully 
used as pollinators in peach houses in some parts of the country by 
large growers, thereby effecting a big saving in labour as compared 



with hand pollinating or 'rabbit tailing' and resulting in more 
effective pollination (Bee Craft, 1940, 7). 

PENNYCRESS Thlaspi arvense: Cruciferae 

The small white flowers of this annual weed are visited by bees 
for nectar (i i). It is often common in cultivated ground and is to 
be found in all parts of the country. 

PENTSTEMON Pentsfemon spp.: Scrophulariaceae 

Bees visit pentstemons to some extent. They arc mostly of hybrid 
origin and with flowers of various colours and sizes. Pentstemon 
anlinhinoides, which is generally grown against a warm wall, being 
not altogether hardy, is reputed to be a source of surplus honey in 
its native land California. Several of the wild pentstemons of 
North America are known to be good bee plants (American Bee 
Journal, 1925, 526). 

PEONY Paeonia spp.: Ranunculaceae 

Most of the peonies seen in gardens have 'double' flowers and 
arc of little interest or use to the honey bee. The single-flowered 
sorts, however, produce an abundance of pollen and bees may 
often be seen collecting it, sometimes three or four on a flower 
together. It has been estimated that as many as three million 
pollen grains may be produced by a single peony flower (20). 

PEREZIA P.mulliflora: Compositae 

This plant, from the slopes of the Andes, is little known in cul- 
tivation but is very attractive to bees. It is an annual or biennial, 
reaching three to four feet in height with masses of China-blue 
flowers with yellow centres rather like a Michaelmas daisy. As 
many as 100 flower heads may be carried by a single stalk. The 
flowering period lasts for several weeks, usually from early June 
onwards. Seeds are produced in abundance and seedlings come up 
freely round the old plants by the time autumn arrives. These 
generally survive the winter and only need thinning in the spring. 
Bees work the flowers for nectar at all hours in fine weather and 
the masses of pollen in their pollen baskets are conspicuous on 
account of their pure white colour. The plant is a useful and easily 
grown one for the bee garden. 

PEROVSKIA P.alriplicifolia: Labiatae 

It is surprising that this exceedingly handsome Himalayan 

shrub is not more generally grown in English gardens, for it is 
quite hardy, although often dying back in winter and sending up 
fresh flowering shoots the following season. Flowering takes place 
in August or September when the masses of purple lavender-like 
blossoms are covered with bees probing for nectar. The blossoms 
contrast well with the silver grey foliage of the plant. It generally 
reaches about six feet in height, needs full sun and thrives best on 
light well-drained soils. The extent of flowering is dependent a 
good deal on the season, fine hot summers giving the best 

PHACELIA P.tenacetifolia: Hydrophyllaceae 

This annual is well known to many beekeepers and is often 
among the collections of bee plants listed in seedsmen's catalogues.* 
Without doubt it deserves the reputation it enjoys, for it un- 
doubtedly secretes nectar very freely and its bluish-pink flowers 
are often to be seen covered with bees, the flowers being visited at 
all hours of the day. It was introduced into Europe from North 
America towards the end of last century, and there are many 
references to it in beekeeping literature English and continental. 
It has also attracted attention as a fodder plant for livestock, but 
while satisfactory as green fodder, it is generally considered too 
fibrous or woody for hay. 

Sown in the spring or early summer, flowering commences in 
about eight weeks, and lasts for four to six weeks, a long period for 
an annual. Large numbers of flowers are produced by each plant. 
The plant succeeds in almost any soil and grows up to two feet 
in height. It lacks the showiness associated with a first-class garden 
plant, but is not out of place as an edging. Grown in quantity by 
itself it is inclined to lodge. Sown mixed with sweet clover it pro- 
vides good bee forage in the first season when the clover itself does 
not flower. It has also been recommended for sowing between the 
rows of potatoes after the last earthing up, when its growth in no 
way interferes with the potato crop, and it gives excellent bee 
forage. In the autumn it is ploughed or dug in as green manure 
(Schwei&rische Bienen ^sitting, Jan. 1927). In most areas two crops 
of flowers may be obtained from the same plot of ground by sowing 
in late September or early October to stand the winter, and again 
in early June. The autumn sowing flowers in the end of April and 
May, while the June sowing provides welcome bee forage in 

In the Phacelia flower the nectar is secreted freely by a disc at 






* c 
Q C 








%>. Veronica and the Loosestrife are 

with bees 


the base of the ovary and is protected by special appendages at the 
base of the stamens. These do not hinder the honey bee. The pollen 
is pale blue, but of a darker hue in the bees' pollen baskets, and 
the individual grains are biscuit-shaped, not spherical. Honey ob- 
tained from the plant in California, from experimental sowing, is 
described as light green and of fine flavour (23). Honey has also 
been obtained from other wild species of Phacelia in the southern 
United States. At Kew the hive bee has been observed working the 
following species for nectar P.viscida, P.congesta and P.campanu- 
laria. The last mentioned has large bell-shaped blue flowers, and 
is sometimes to be seen in gardens. 

PHEASANT'S EYE Adonis spp.: Ranunculaceae 

The vivid flowers of this popular annual are sometimes visited 
by bees for pollen. 

PIERIS P.floribunda, P.japonica: Ericaceae 

These evergreen shrubs, with their white pitcher-shaped flowers, 
bloom early in the year (March). Bees visit the blossoms, but as the 
flower-tube is a quarter of an inch or more in length, with a con- 
stricted opening, it is doubtful whether the honeybee obtains much 
nectar unless secretion is very heavy. Conditions for successful cul- 
tivation are the same as for rhododendrons. 

PLANTAIN Plantago lanceolata: Plantaginaceae 

The flowers of this very common weed are available for the 
greater part of the summer and sometimes attract bees for pollen, 
but more usually are entirely ignored. The pollen is of the dry 
wind-borne type which bees do not seem to relish when other 
pollen (from entomophilous flowers) is available. 

The following interesting account of the way bees visit the 
flowers has been recorded: 'The honey bee flies buzzing to a spike, 
and while it hovers in the air it spits a little honey on the exserted 
anthers. Then, still hovering and buzzing, it brushes pollen with 
the tarsal brushes of its forefeet off the anther, the tone of its hum- 
ming becoming suddenly higher; in the same instant one sees a 
cloud of pollen rise from the shaken anthers. After placing the 
pollen on its hind legs the bee repeats the operation on the same 
or other spikes, or if it is tired it alights on the spike and creeps 
upward. . . .' (i i). 'In windy weather the honey bee behaves quite 
differently when collecting pollen. In these circumstances it flies 

M 177 


straight to the spikes, goes once round the zone containing opening 
flowers, and brushes its legs over the projecting anthers. It is thus 
able, after the loosely placed pollen has been dispersed by the 
wind, to obtain still further supplies. Honey bees vary individually 
in their treatment of these anemophilous flowers' (16). 

POLYGONUM Polygonum spp.: Polygonaceae 

Several wild plants and weeds closely related to buckwheat and 
belonging to the same genus, Polygonum, are good bee plants. These 
include 'climbing buckwheat' (P. convolvulus], a troublesome corn- 
field weed and the common bistort (P.bistortd) with its pretty spikes 
of small, flesh-coloured flowers. The latter is usually to be found in 
moist grassy places. Persicary (P.persicaria), a ubiquitous weed not 
only in Britain but in Europe and America as well, is reputed to 
be a good nectar plant in some countries. It yields surplus in parts 
of the United States and Canada, where it comes up freely in corn- 
fields after cultivation has ceased (19), the honey being described 
as spicy, very dark, and granulating rapidly (3). In Britain this 
plant docs not seem to be very freely worked by bees. The same 
has been said of it in Germany (u). Other wild British species 
visited for nectar are water pepper (P.hydropiper), frequent in 
ditches, and the amphibious persicary (P.amphibium), a showy 
aquatic plant. The latter may be useful plants for establishing on 
or around ponds or waste stretches of water to increase the bee 
pasturage of a district. Nectar secretion in a water plant is prob- 
ably less liable to be affected by dry spells than are terrestrial 
plants, provided always of course the drought is not severe enough 
to dry up the pool or pond. 

Some of the Polygonums cultivated in gardens are good bee 
plants, the most noteworthy being perhaps P.sachalinense (intro- 
duced from the Sachalin Islands off the coast of Siberia in 1869), 
an imposing giant perennial with stems ten to twelve feet high and 
leaves a foot in length. It is ideal for semi-wild places and a good 
nectar plant with its clusters of greenish white flowers in late sum- 
mer (American Bee Journal, 1943, 438). 

POPLAR Populus spp.: Salicaceae 

Poplars are sometimes useful for early pollen. The half-dozen or 
so different kinds that are commonly to be seen produce their cat- 
kins in March or April. These may be conspicuous on account of 
their red or purple anthers. In the balsam poplars (e.g. P.tricho- 
carpa from western Canada) the buds are covered with a fragrant 


balsamic gum. Bees have been observed buzzing round the trees 
and collecting it, presumably for use as propolis. 

POPPY Papaver spp.: Papaveraceae 

Both wild and garden poppies produce pollen in abundance. 
This is generally dark coloured and seems to be much to the bees' 
liking, for they visit the flowers in large numbers for it, even when 
many other sources of pollen are available. The same applies to 
bumble bees. In the large single flowers of the Oriental poppies it 
is not unusual to see three or four hive bees together all revelling 
in the rich store of pollen. 

There seems to be some evidence that a certain amount of nectar 
may also be available from poppies at times, particularly the com- 
Aion field poppy, Papaver rhoeas (4). Various reports have appeared 
to the effect that the poppy may have a narcotizing or stupefying 
effect on bees. A German observer noticed that 90 per cent of his 
bees returning with pollen loads from the field poppy had difficulty 
in finding the entrance of their hive (Bee World, 1936, 47). As the 
poppy is the source of opium and various narcotic principles this 
may not be surprising. 

POTENTILLA Potentilla spp.: Rosaceae 

Some of the potentillas or cinquefoils, both wild and cultivated, 
are visited by bees for nectar. There are more than a dozen in the 
British flora. One of the best known is the silver- weed (P.anserina), 
a creeping plant with silvery leaves and yellow flowers that occurs 
more or less everywhere. Bees visit the flowers at times, but not in 
large numbers. The same applies to the shrubby cinquefoil (P.fru- 
ticosa), a rare plant in the wild state, but grown in gardens. 

PRIMROSE Primula spp.: Primulaceae 

There have been reports that bees visit primroses (27), but it is 

doubtful whether they are of any value, certainly not for nectar. 

PRIVET Ligustrum vulgare: Oleaceae (Plate 2} 

The flowers of privet yield nectar freely and this is readily col- 
lected by hive bees. Unfortunately it produces a strong flavoured, 
bitter honey, thick and dark coloured, which will spoil any other 
honey with which it is mixed. However, privet in flower is seldom 
sufficiently abundant for this to occur, and in most districts more 
a source of good than evil to the beekeeper. Overgrown or neg- 
lected privet hedges, bearing a profusion of blossom, are a common 


enough sight. They are generally viewed with favour by urban 
beekeepers, especially as they provide food for bees at a time when 
limes are over and there is little else. 

The common privet (L.vulgare) is wild and sometimes common in 
chalk scrub and around beechwoods in the south of England, 
flowering usually in June and July. As a hedge plant it has been 
largely superseded by Japanese privet (L.ovalifolium) which retains 
its leaves better. This privet flowers later (August and September) 
when allowed to do so, and not regularly trimmed. 

The clusters of white flowers of privet have a heavy penetrating 
odour, rather objectionable to most people. The flower tubes are 
short and the honey bee has no difficulty in getting at the nectar. 
Sometimes nectar secretion is so copious overnight as to reach 
half-way up the flower tube in the morning. 

Other privets are sometimes cultivated as ornamental shrubs. 
Of these, Chinese privet (L.chinense) is one of the most handsome, 
with its large feathery masses of bloom in June and July. These are 
frequently covered with bees. Even with the limes out at Kew bees 
continue to work the blossoms. 

PUFF -BALL Lycoperdon giganteum: Fungi 

This interesting fungus, which attains the dimensions of a foot- 
ball and is edible in the young stage, is of interest to the beekeeper. 
It is quite common in some parts of the country. The smoke from 
it has long been used for stupefying bees, the fungus being first cut 
into slices and dried in the sun before being burned. There is 
reference to its being used in this way by 'skeppists' in the older 
bee literature. It was, and may still be, used in parts of Scotland. 
In more recent years its use as smoker fuel has been suggested, 
also the thick fleshy fungi common on tree trunks (Bee World, 
1936, 6). 

PYRACANTHA Pyracantha coccinea: Rosaceae 

The masses of white blossoms of this popular evergreen shrub 
are attractive to bees when they appear in May or June. Nectar is 
secreted very freely by the flowers at times. Pollen is also collected. 
In prolonged drought the nectar flow may cease, for it has been 
noticed that bees are inclined to pay little attention to the blos- 
soms during such periods. 

The pyracantha, or firethorn as it is also called, was introduced 
to cultivation in Britain from southern Europe over 300 years ago. 
There are several varieties of it, and it is widely grown, particu- 

1 80 


larly against walls, for which it is well adapted. Grown this way it 
produces its attractive fruits more freely than in the open. Its one 
weakness is that it transplants badly except when young. 

QUINCE Cydonia oblonga: Rosaceae 

Like the medlar the quince is one of those hardy fruits that can- 
not claim wide popularity in Britain and is not so extensively 
grown as in many other countries. It reached this country from 
southern Europe, where it is naturalized but its real origin is un- 
certain as is the case with many other cultivated plants. The quince 
has solitary flowers. These are similar in structure to those of the 
apple and pear but arc larger and appear later. They are a source 
of nectar and pollen to the honey bee. The so-called Japanese 
Quince or 'Japonica' is a closely related plant grown for ornamen- 
tal purposes (see Japonica). 

RADISH Raphanus sativus: Cruciferae 

When left neglected in the vegetable garden or when grown for 
seed the flowers of the radish attract bees for nectar. 

Of greater importance to the beekeeper however is the wild 
radish (R.raphanistrum), also known as white- or jointed-charlock 
or runch. It is a troublesome weed in cornfields and arable land 
on all types of soil. It grows one to two feet high and flowers in 
June or July with straw-coloured, sometimes white, distinctly 
veined flowers. The plant is often confused with ordinary charlock, 
which it resembles, but may be distinguished by its jointed seed 
pods. The roots smell like radish but arc more pungent. As a bee 
plant it is probably of about the same value as charlock and useful 
to the beekeeper when present in quantity. The honey is also 
believed to be similar and light in colour (14). 

RAGGED ROBIN Lychnis flos-cuculi: Caryophyllaceae 

Bees are known to visit the rose-coloured flowers of this common 
wild plant for nectar and pollen. Nectar is secreted at the base of 
the stamens and is probably difficult for the honey bee to reach 
on account of the length of the flower tube. 

RAGWORT Senecio jacobaea: Compositae (Plates) 

Ragwort is frequently a troublesome weed in Britain as well as 
in many other countries. It is common in waste places and in 



meadowland and may be anything from one to four feet high. 
With its masses of yellow flowers, produced any time from June to 
October it may be a striking feature of the landscape, particularly 
on light, medium or calcareous soils. In meadowland it is mainly 
troublesome where cattle only are grazed, for they do not touch 
the plant, whereas sheep eat out the bud of the rosette of leaves in 
the early stages and so prevent or retard its further development. 
The whole plant has a strong smell which accounts for the name 
'Stinking Willie' applied to it in Scotland. 

Ragwort is always attractive to bees and a prolific source of 
nectar and pollen, particularly late in the season when other 
sources are over. Unfortunately the honey, like the plant, is strong 
flavoured, almost bitter in fact, and liable to spoil other honey if 
present in any quantity. This does not detract from its usefulness 
for the bees' own consumption and for winter stores. The honey is 
deep yellow in colour, the aroma being characteristic and strong 
as well as the flavour. When bees work this plant the wax produced 
is also a deep yellow, probably stained from oil in the pollen as in 
sainfoin. The pollen itself is deep yellow in colour. When pro- 
longed drought causes a failure with white clover ragwort honey 
may be stored in quantity if the plant is prevalent for it is fairly 
drought resistant. Much Irish honey is believed to contain a cer- 
tain amount of ragwort honey (14). 

The so-called 'Oxford Ragwort' (Senecio squalidus), a rather simi- 
lar but more elegant plant that originated from Europe, is now 
common in some areas. It flowers from June to November and 
often attracts bees for nectar and pollen. 

RASPBERRY Rubus idaeus: Rosaceae 

Where raspberries are cultivated on a large scale for market they 
provide valuable bee forage, for the flowers are good nectar 
yiclders, giving a high quality honey. Furthermore flowering 
generally takes place at a most appropriate time between the 
blossoming of fruit trees and the first appearance of white clover. 
Raspberries have long been grown on a field scale in Scotland 
where they thrive and claim more attention than they do further 
south, where there is a wider range of fruits available for cultiva- 
tion. The wild raspberry is also more common in the north than 
the south, and is the progenitor of the cultivated sorts, which it 
closely resembles. However its fruits are smaller and more prone 
to be dry. The plant may often be seen thriving in places where 
fires have been. Many of the so-called wild raspberries are the 



offspring of cultivated kinds through seed being spread by birds. 

Raspberry flowers are mostly pendulous and the nectar well 
protected from rain. Bees are able to work them when those of 
other plants have been spoiled by rain and visit them even in dull 
weather. The nectar is easily available to the honey bee and is 
secreted within the stamen circle at the base of the flower. It first 
appears as drops and if not removed by insects soon covers the base 
of the flower. Raspberry flowers are undoubtedly exceptionally 
attractive to the honey bee. Besides nectar, masses of white pollen 
are collected from them. 

The honey from raspberry is light in colour and of a delicate 
flavour. Some consider it superior to any other table honey 'par- 
taking somewhat of the exquisite flavour of the fruit itself. . . while 
its delicious comb almost melts in the mouth' (20). 

The honey bee is unable to puncture the skins of fruits like 
plums, cherries, and grapes, for they arc too tough for its jaws. 
This does not apply in the case of the raspberry, however, with its 
very delicate skin. Not infrequently bees collect the sweet juice 
from ripe and overripe raspberries. This is considered to be the 
source of the so-called red honey that is reported by British bee- 
keepers from time to time (Bee World, 1942, 45). 

The dewberry (Rubus caesius) and many other species of Rubus 
and the hybrid berries often cultivated are attractive to bees but 
are not usually available in any quantity. 

RHODODENDRON Rhododendron ponticum: Ericaceae 

Rhododendrons do not usually offer much attraction to the 
honey bee although the flowers are much visited by bumble bees 
which are better able to get at the nectar with their longer tongues. 
The flowers are similar in structure to those of azaleas where the 
same applies. The small-flowered rhododendrons, such as the 
dwarf kinds often seen in rock gardens, are doubtless better suited 
to the hive bee. 

The common purple-flowered or Pontic rhododendron (R.pon- 
ticum) that is naturalized and occurs so freely throughout the 
country, often on the outskirts of woods, is known to be worked 
for nectar by honey bees at times, possibly only when nectar is 
secreted copiously and can be easily reached. This plant has been 
known as a source of poisonous honey in southern Europe from 
classical times and there are at least two instances where honey 
with harmful or deleterious properties in Britain is suspected of 
having been obtained from it (see remarks on poisonous honey, 



Section i). The pollen of rhododendrons is like that of the heaths, 
in tetrads, but is larger. 

ROCK BEAUTY Petrocallis pyrenaica: Cruciferae 

This handsome little Alpine plant with its cushions of leaves two 
to three inches high is not unlike a Saxifrage. It bears pale lilac, 
sweet-scented flowers in April, which yield nectar and pollen. 

ROCK ROSE Helianthemum spp.: Cislaceae 

Both the wild and the garden rock roses, or sun roses as they are 
sometimes called, may attract bees in large numbers in bright 
sunny weather the only time that the flowers are open in fact. 
The wild kinds are most common on chalk hills and on cliffs and 
hillsides near the sea. In these situations their yellow flowers may 
appear in great profusion from May until July. Each flower bears 
numerous stamens and is a source of much pollen. It is mainly for 
pollen that bees visit the flowers. This applies also to the garden 
rock roses with their bright flowers of many shades, which are 
often favoured for rock gardens and stony slopes. 

ROCKET Hesperis matronalis: Cruciferae 

This favourite old garden plant, with its sweet-scented mauve or 
white flowers, is sometimes popular with bees for pollen. The single 
form is easily naturalized in shrubberies and has been found ap- 
parently wild in some parts of the country. 

ROSE Rosa spp.: Rosaceat 

The numerous wild roses that beautify the countryside from 
June onwards yield pollen in abundance and are sometimes visited 
by honey bees on this account. There has been discussion in the 
past as to whether roses are not also a source of some nectar but 
the consensus of opinion is against this, at least in so far as con- 
ditions in Britain are concerned. The same applies to garden roses 
when these are of the single flowered type. The pollen of the rose 
is very like that of the apple and is gathered greedily by bees at 

ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis: Labiatae 

The pale mauve flowers of this popular garden plant are much 
loved by bees, who crowd over them when they appear from April 
till June. This evergreen shrub is a native of the Mediterranean 
region and Asia Minor and is not hardy everywhere in Britain. It 



succeeds best in warm situations on light dry soils. On chalk the 
bush grows smaller but is more fragrant. 

The famous Narbonne honey, which in normal times may be 
purchased from some of the big London stores, is derived largely 
from this plant. Rosemary is an important source of honey in many 
parts of Spain and imparts something of its own fragrance to the 
honey gathered from it. The shrub is well suited as a low evergreen 
hedge, particularly when one is required for the bee garden, for it 
never fails to attract. 

RUE Ruta graveolens: Rutaceae 

Rue is now seldom cultivated in English gardens and is of little 
account as a bee plant although bees are known to visit the 
greenish-yellow flowers for nectar (i). In them the nectar is ex- 
posed and so attracts numerous short-tongued insects as well. Rue 
was more generally grown for medicinal purposes in bygone days. 

SAFFLOWER Carthamus tinctorius: Compositae 

Safflower has long been an important oil seed crop in India and 
the East and has been considered as an alternative crop to the 
sunflower in other countries. There are many varieties ranging in 
height to five feet. The thistle-like flowers are sometimes used as a 
dye. They secrete nectar very freely and are much visited by bees. 
The plant will grow and flower in the south of England but for 
profitable seed production doubtless needs a warmer climate. 

SAGE Salvia qfficinalis: Labiatae 

This culinary herb, so much used for flavouring, has been cul- 
tivated in Britain for many centuries and originated in the Medi- 
terranean region. In its native haunts it is sometimes the most 
common plant of the low shrubby vegetation so typical of the 
hillsides in that area. It is there the source of much fine honey, 
light in colour, of good flavour and slow to granulate. 

Sage does not grow quite so luxuriantly in the cool moist English 
climate, nevertheless apart from its cultivation in gardens for home 
use, it is grown on a field scale in some parts of the country, notably 
the market garden districts of Kent, Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Bed- 
fordshire and Worcestershire. It is not fastidious in regard to soil. 
It may be harvested periodically throughout the summer or at the 
end of the season and dried, which is more desirable from the bee- 
keeper's point of view as the flowers afford first-class bee forage. 
Two sorts of sage are commonly grown the broad and the narrow 

leaved. Red or purple sage is sometimes cultivated, but mainly for 
decorative or medicinal purposes. 

Two wild sages, meadow sage (S.pratensis) and clary sage (S.ver- 
benaca), are good bee plants but probably nowhere sufficiently 
abundant to be a source of honey. Many varieties of the former 
are grown in flower gardens. Clary sage is also cultivated and is 
reputed to be a useful bee plant in parts of Australia where it has 
become naturalized (19). In California some of the wild sages are 
first-class nectar plants and yield a high grade honey which is very 
slow to granulate. 

A sage closely allied to culinary sage and known as 'Balkan 
Sage' is sometimes to be seen in collections of bee plants. This was 
made known to British beekeepers by Mr. Herbert Mace who 
states in regard to it: 'During my war service in the Balkans, "I 
collected seed from thirty plants new to me and attractive to bees. 
On my return these were sown with varying results. Some failed 
to germinate, others did not grow well in this climate, or failed to 
seed, and only one proved entirely satisfactory. This is a species of 
sage, hitherto unknown to English gardeners, but said to be near 
Salvia amplexicaulis. It is a great acquisition, both as a border and 
bee plant. It is a perennial and two plants grown from the original 
seed are still vigorous after fifteen years, but it does not spread or 
become weedy. It attains a height of two to four feet, forming a 
dense bush bearing a mass of glorious blue flower amongst purple 
bracts, making it a most striking object. It begins to bloom in June 
and continues till October if faded sprays are cut off. In fine or 
dull weather the plants are besieged by bees and butterflies . . .' 
(The Beekeeping Annual List, 1936). 

SALVIA Salvia spp.: Labiatae 

Some of the cultivated or garden Salvias are attractive to bees, 
but in others the flower tube is too long for the honey bee to be 
able to reach the nectar. This applies to the commonest of all 
Salvias, the Scarlet Salvia (S.splendens), so much used for bedding 
in English gardens, but not hardy. 

The best Salvia for bees in the writer's experience is S.superba 
(formerly called S.virgata nemorosa) which is a hybrid and originated 
from eastern Europe. It is a perennial and perfectly hardy, reach- 
ing two to three feet in height, with erect growth, requiring no 
staking. Flowering commences in June, when the numerous spikes 
of purple blue flowers are a pretty sight. It is in full bloom for a 
month to six weeks and continues to flower until September. Dur- 



ing the whole of this time the flowers swarm with honey bees work- 
ing for nectar, which they have no difficulty in reaching. A large 
circular bed of this plant at Kew is often so covered with bees in 
June that it almost looks as though a swarm were alighting, or in 
the vicinity. Besides being a good bee plant Salvia superba is also a 
first-class garden plant with its handsome flowers, long flowering 
season, and ease of cultivation. It needs full sun like most Salvias, 
and is propagated by division of the roots or cuttings, not seeds. It 
does not form viable seed and the pollen also is abortive which is 
not unusual in hybrid plants. No bee garden should be without 
this plant. 

SAPONARIA Saponaria spp.: Caryophyllaeeae 

These garden annuals are sometimes visited by bees, probably 
mainly for pollen, those sown in autumn for early spring blooming 
being the most useful in this respect. 

SASSAFRAS Sassafras qfficinale: Lauraceae 

This North American tree is occasionally seen in cultivation in 
the warmer parts of the British Isles, and is of interest on account 
of its aromatic nature being the source of oil of sassafras. Its 
small greenish-yellow flowers, which appear in May for about two 
weeks, are visited by honey bees for nectar. 

SAVORY Satureia montana, S.hortensis: Labiatae 

Savory is one of the less common of the culinary herbs in English 
gardens. With its strong flavour it is sometimes used for seasoning, 
like thyme, and in France is cooked with broad beans as mint iS 
cooked with peas. It belongs to the mint family. There are two 
sorts, summer savory (S.hortensis) an annual, and winter savory 
(S.montana) a perennial. Both are good bee plants and well worked 
for nectar, especially the latter. They flower in June and July and 
have pale rather insignificant flowers. 

SAXIFRAGE Saxifraga spp.: Saxifragaceae 

The saxifrages, wild or cultivated, are not in the front rank 
among bee plants, but honey bees frequently visit the flowers. In 
them the nectar is very exposed and only secreted in sunny 
weather when flies and other short-tongued insects immediately 
have access to it. Such flowers are not usually great favourites with 
honey bees. Perhaps they do not care to rub shoulders with flies or 



drink from the same vessel! The same applies in the large family 
Umbelliferae y to which the carrot belongs. 

Among garden saxifrages London Pride (S.umbrosa) is best 
known. It possesses a beautifully marked pollen grain, a delicate 
flesh-colour in honey (27). 

SCABIOUS Scabiosa spp.: Dipsaceae 

Wild and garden scabious are good nectar plants. The wild 
species are all freely visited by the honey bee, especially the field 
scabious (S.arvensis) and Devil's bit (S.succisa). These plants are 
very common in some parts of the country. All have handsome 
blue or lilac flowers and are in bloom mainly in July and August. 
One writer records much nectar being gathered from wild scabious 
in September (Bee Craft, 1938, 313). The secretion of nectar in the 
flower is of interest for it takes place on the upper surface of the 
ovary and is protected from rain by hairs in the corolla tube. In 
the field scabious this varies from 4-9 mm. according to tHe posi- 
tion of the flower in the flower head, and the nectar is generally 
easily reached by the honey bee. The pale yellow pollen is also 

Over a dozen of the wild scabious from other lands in cultivation 
at Kew have been observed being freely worked for nectar. 
Popularity with bees applies also to garden kinds with their flowers 
of so many different shades. The so-called shceps bit scabious 
(Jasione montana: Campanulaceae) is an entirely different plant, but 
is also common in many districts and visited by hive bees for 

SCHIZOPETALON S.walkeri: Cruciferae 

The unusual and scented white flowers of this half hardy annual 
from Chile are attractive to bees like most Crucifers. The plant 
is not often grown in gardens. 

SCURVY- GRASS Cochlearia qfficinalis: Cruciferae 

Honey bees work the white flowers of this old time medicinal 
plant freely at times. It is a characteristic plant of the seashore, 
blossoming in May. 

SEA- CABBAGE Brassica oleracea: Cruciferae (Plate 31} 

The sea-cabbage is often a conspicuous plant on sea cliffs and is 
known to be the parent of the cultivated cabbage. Its yellow 

1 88 


flowers yield nectar freely and attract bees like those of its garden 
relative (see Brassica). 

SEA-HOLLY Eryngium spp.: Umbelliferae 

The sea-hollies or Eryngiums are often mistaken for thistles 
which they closely resemble with their prickly holly-like leaves. 
Besides the wild sea-holly (E.maritimum) and field ernygo ( 
pestre), a rare plant, the flowers of several cultivated or garden 
kinds are visited by honey bees for nectar. One of the most inter- 
esting of these to the beekeeper is perhaps E.giganteum, from the 
Caucasus, which bears a very large inflorescence. This perennial 
is favoured by bees. It has been suggested for sowing in waste 
ground as bee pasturage in Europe (Bee World, 1926, 117), the 
argument being put forward that it is unlikely to become a pest as 
slight injury to the root kills the plant. 

SEA-KALE Crambe maritime: Cruciferae 

The wild sea-kale is only to be found near the seashore par- 
ticularly in the west of England. Its white flowers appear in June 
and are similar to those of the sea-kale of the vegetable garden 
when this is allowed to run to seed. Bees visit them for nectar. 

SEA-LAVENDER Limonium (Statice) spp.: Plumbaginaceae (Plate 30) 

Sea-lavender is a well-known plant of the muddy shores and salt 
marshes of England. The common species (L.vulgare) sometimes 
covers wide expanses, producing its flowering stalks, two to three 
feet high, from July to September. The flat-topped clusters of 
small blossoms, like lavender in colour, but not in scent for they 
are odourless, make it conspicuous from a distance. There are re- 
ports of bees working the blossoms well for nectar and that the 
honey is light and of good quality (14). Frequently the plant is 
most prevalent in remote places, but where bees have access to it 
in quantity it is doubtless a useful late source of nectar, for it is 
available when most other sources, except heather, are over. 

SEDGES * Cyperaceae 

Some sedges and rushes have been observed to be worked by 
honey bees for pollen even when other sources are available (Bee 
World, 1939, 12). The same is known to apply in the case of certain 
grasses (see Grasses). However, on the whole they are of little 
consequence to the honey bee. One observer (27) records having 

seen bees eagerly visiting the flowers of the wood rush (Luzula cam- 
pestris) for pollen. 

SELF-HEAL Prunella vulgaris: Labiatae 

The purple flowers of this extremely common wild plant are 
visited by bees on occasions, but it could hardly be called a good 
bee plant. As the flower tube is about 8 mm. in length it may be 
that nectar is not available to the hive bee unless secretion is very 

SENECIO Senecio spp.: Compositae 

Several Senecios attract bees for nectar, notable among them 
being S.sarracenicus, sometimes called broad-leaved ragwort. This 
is not a native plant, but it is naturalized in some areas. It is four 
to five feet high and best suited for the semi-wild garden, being 
rather coarse. The yellow flowers appear from June onwards. The 
plant is reputed to have been introduced to Britain by the 

SERRADELLA Ornithopus saliva: Leguminosae 

Serradella is often cultivated in European countries as a fodder 
plant, but seldom in Britain and only in the south. It is an annual, 
clover-like plant, one to two feet high and well suited for poor 
sandy soils. The small pinkish flowers may be available for as long 
as three months, and are considered to be a good source of nectar. 
The plant docs not ripen its seeds evenly or well in Britain and is 
really happier in a warmer climate. 

SIDA S.napaea: Malvaceae 

The white flowers of this vigorous, mallow-like perennial not 
often cultivated are visited for nectar and pollen by bees. 

SIDALGEA Sidalcea malvaeflora: Malvaceae 

The Sidalceas of the flower border are visited for nectar and 
pollen, mainly the latter. These mallow-like perennials with their 
rose-purple or white flowers, thrive in almost any soil. Known as 
wild hollyhock they are of importance for nectar and pollen in 
California, where they are wild and are often to be seen along 
ditches and roadsides (23). 

SILPHIUM Silphium spp. Compositae 

These tall hardy perennials, which resemble sunflowers, are not 



often seen in the flower garden, being somewhat coarse. They are 
vigorous and able to thrive in the heaviest clay soils and are suited 
for the semi-wild garden. Several species have been observed being 
worked for nectar and pollen at Kew. S.perforatum (cup plant) is 
reputed to be abundant and afford good bee forage in parts of the 
Mississippi valley (19). 

SKIMMIA S.japonica: Rutaceae 

Both male and female flowers of this useful and much cultivated 
evergreen shrub secrete nectar freely but nevertheless do not seem 
to attract the honey bee to any extent. The flowers appear early 
in the year and are followed by bright red berries one of the main 
attractions of this Japanese shrub. Bees have been observed col- 
lecting pollen from the male flowers in April at Kew. 

SNOWBERRY Symphoricarpus albus: Caprifoliaceae (Plate 4) 

This hardy North American shrub is common throughout the 
country and is often seen in shrubberies, as a rough hedge plant, 
or apparently wild, for it is extensively naturalized. As it suckers 
freely it often forms dense thickets. It is easily distinguished from 
all other shrubs by its pure white fruits, which account for its 

The small, bell-shaped, pinkish white flowers appear from June 
to August. They are not conspicuous, but must be great nectar 
yielders judging by the way they attract hive bees, bumble bees 
and wasps. There is not a large number of flowers out at any one 
time, but the flowering period is a long one and the flowers may be 
worked all day. On warm summer evenings honey bees have been 
observed on the flowers at quite a late hour. The shrub has been 
recommended for planting to improve the August honey flow 
where waste or suitable land exists (Bee World, 1936, 20), for once 
established it is well able to look after itself. In its native land bees 
are said to work it in preference to white clover and excellent 
honey is obtained from it (20). 

Other species of Symphoricarpus > sometimes grown for their orna- 
mental fruits, are known to be first-class nectar plants, such as 
S.occidentalis (wolf berry) and S.orbicularis (Indian currant or coral 
berry) (20). 

SNOWDROP Galantkus nivalis: Amaryllidaceae 

Always one of the best loved of early spring flowers, the snow- 
drop is often to be found in bloom in woods and fields as early as 


February. It remains in bloom for several weeks. When weather is 
suitable, bees seek the flowers with zest and make good use of the 
bright yellow pollen which it furnishes. Where the plants grow 
abundantly bees sometimes swarm over the flowers on bright 
sunny days. Besides yielding pollen the flowers secrete a certain 
amount of nectar. This is formed in depressions on the inner sides 
of the petals and at the base of the flowers. It is not always easily 
seen except when flowers have been kept in a warm room over- 

In collecting pollen from the snowdrop the honey bee inserts its 
head, front and middle legs into the flower, clinging with its hind 
legs to a petal. It then brushes the anthers with the fore and middle 
legs and deposits the pollen obtained in the pollen baskets of the 
hind legs (16). 

SNOWDROP TREE Halesia Carolina: Styracaceae 

The snowdrop or silver bell tree, a native of the south-eastern 
United States, is sometimes seen in English gardens. It produces 
clusters of pendulous white flowers, not unlike snowdrops, in May. 
These are worked fairly freely by bees in some seasons. 

SNOWFLAKE Leucojum vernum: Amaryllidaceae 

The spring snowflake, like its close relative the snowdrop, is a 
useful early source of pollen for the honey bee and may also yield 
a little nectar given favourable weather. It is usually in flower in 
March and April, the fragrant drooping flowers resembling large 
snowdrops. The plant is very local in its distribution. The sum- 
mer snowflake (L.vernum) is similar, but is a larger plant and 
flowers later. 

SOLOMON'S SEAL Polygonatum spp.: Liliaceae 

There are three species of Solomon's Seal native to Britain but 
all are rare or local in distribution. One of these, the so-called 
angular Solomon's Seal (P.qfficinale) which flowers in May and 
June, is reported to be an important nectar plant in parts of 
Holland (Bee World, 1937, 48). 

SOW-THISTLE Sonchus spp.: Compositae 

The flowers of the corn or perennial sow-thistle (S.arvensis) and 
the common annual sow-thistle (S.oleraceus) are visited by bees. 
Both are weeds up and down the country, the former mainly in 
cornfields and the latter in waste places, along roadsides, etc. The 



corn sow-thistle with its creeping roots is often a pestilential weed 
in fields and flowers from August onwards, its yellow flower heads, 
the size of a penny, attracting bees for nectar and pollen. In the 
Prairie Provinces of Canada this European weed is now equally 
common and is regarded as a good honey plant (Bee World, 1923, 
4). The common sow-thistle in Britain is mainly visited for pollen: 
the corolla tube being 8-12 mm. in length. 

SPURGE Euphorbia spp.: Euphorbiaceae 

The greenish-yellow flowers of the spurges (particularly Euphor- 
bia esula] are sometimes visited by bees for nectar, but on the whole 
do not offer much attraction and are generally neglected when 
other plants are available. Bees collecting nectar and pollen from 
spurges at Kew have been observed with dark brown pollen loads. 

SPURREY Spergula arvensis: Caryophyllaceae 

Although primarily a weed of light sandy soils, especially those 
deficient in lime, corn spurrey has been grown as a forage crop for 
sheep in some countries. Its small white flowers are produced from 
June till August. These are closed in unfavourable weather and 
only open fully in sunlight. Nectar may be formed at the base of 
the stamens, and honey bees are known to visit the flowers. 

STACK YS Stachys spp.: Labiatae 

The genus Stachys is a large one with over 200 species. About 
half a dozen (commonly called 'wound- worts') are native to the 
British Isles. Others are sometimes cultivated as ornamental plants. 
In those cases where the flower-tube is not too long the honey bee 
may be a frequent visitor for nectar. One species (S.recta, with 
yellow flowers) is reputed to be abundant in Czechoslovakia and 
to be an important source of honey there: the honey being water 
white, dense and slow to granulate (27). 

STONEGROP Sedum spp.: Crassulaceae 

The stonecrops closely resemble the Saxifrages and occur in 
similar situations, being often seen on old walls and rocky banks 
in the wild state. The flowers attract bees to some extent, especially 
those of the large purple-flowered wild sedum (S.telephium), of 
which there are many garden forms or varieties. The showy, rose- 
purple flowers of the much-grown Japanese sedum (S.spectabile) 
which generally appear in mid-August also claim the attention of 

N 193 

hive bees. This accommodating plant will grow in any soil, or in 
shade, and withstands great extremes of heat or cold well. 

ST. JOHN'S WORT Hypericum spp.: Hypericaceae 

The St. John's Wort of the flower garden, as well as the many 
wild kinds, yields pollen in abundance, each flower possessing 
numerous stamens. This is frequently collected by bees, and when 
packed in their pollen baskets is orange in colour. The flowers 
appear to yield no nectar whatsoever. 

STRAWBERRY Fragaria vesca: Rosaceae 

The strawberry has often been overrated as a bee plant. Bees do 
visit the blossoms, sometimes very freely, but mainly for pollen. 
This is one of the instances where the hive bee is of great service 
to the fruit grower for some varieties of strawberry are self-sterile 
or deficient in pollen and cross pollination by insect agency is of 
primary importance. 

Strawberries are extensively grown for market and on a field 
scale in many parts of the country, but never docs one hear of a 
beekeeper obtaining surplus from this source. Actually a nectary 
is present in the flower and takes the form of a narrow fleshy ring 
on the receptacle or the base of the flower. Nectar is secreted at 
times but not in large amount. It is concealed and partly pro- 
tected by the carpels and stamens. The pollen is of a pale yellow 

The flowers of wild strawberries are similar in structure but 
smaller and probably of about equal value to the honey bee. Wild 
strawberries are usually to be seen in flower in May and June, but 
are not so prevalent in Britain as in some parts of Europe. 

STRAWBERRY TREE Arbutus unedo: Ericaceae 

This rather unusual evergreen tree is sometimes to be seen in 
cultivation, but in the British Isles occurs wild only in southern 
Ireland. The pinkish-white, pitcher-shaped flowers are produced 
at an unusual time, from October to December, and develop into 
ripe fruits the following autumn. Bees have been observed visiting 
the flowers for nectar and pollen on fine autumn days. Honey is 
obtained from the Strawberry tree in some parts of the Mediter- 
ranean region, e.g. Sardinia and Greece, and is described as 
lemon yellow in colour with an aromatic odour and bitter to the 
taste (30). 


A similar tree (A.menziesii) from North America is also sometimes 
cultivated. In its native land it is a source of good quality honey 


SUMAC Rhus spp.: Anacardiaceae 

There are about 150 sumacs or species of Rhus distributed 
throughout the world. None are native to Britain but a few are 
sometimes cultivated for their ornamental foliage. The flowers are 
generally small, inconspicuous and dull in colour but often very 
rich in nectar. Several of the North American species are sources 
of honey. This is inclined to be strong flavoured at first (19). Two 
are frequently to be seen in English gardens, viz. stagshorn sumac 
(R.typhina) a shrub or small flat-topped tree, and poison ivy (R.toxi- 
codendron) a creeper, both grown for their fine-coloured autumn 
foliage. At Kew a Chinese sumac (R.potaninii), a small tree, is 
covered with blossom in late May or June and bees literally swarm 
over it. 

SUNFLOWER Helianthus spp.: Compositae (Plate 29) 

The many different kinds of garden sunflower, whether annual 
or perennial, tall or dwarf, are all more or less good bee plants 
'double' forms cxcepted. The tall perennial kinds are mostly 
autumn flowering and may be numbered among the useful, al- 
though minor, late sources of nectar and pollen available to urban 
beekeepers. Some are very late in flowering and provided the 
flowers are not damaged by frost, are very freely worked, especially 
for pollen, on fine autumn days. This is a time when there is little 
else available. In their native land (North America) they are some- 
times prevalent enough in the wild state to yield some surplus 
honey which is described as amber or dark with a characteristic 
flavour not disliked by most people (20). 

The large flower heads of the annual giant sunflower (H.annuus) 
which is grown for its seed for use as poultry food or for oil, are also 
visited by honey bees for nectar or pollen, along with numerous 
other insects. This is an important field crop in some countries and 
honey is obtained from it. According to a French writer (L* Apicul- 
ture Franfaise, April, 1932) the leaves and stems, when cut green 
and left to dry, form excellent smoker fuel, giving a dense smoke 
and burning slowly. The seeds are liked by tits and may help in 
keeping them out of mischief in an apiary. A gummy secretion 
sometimes present on the flower heads may also claim the attention 
of bees, possibly as a source of propolis. 



SWEDISH WHITEBEAM Sorbus intermedia: Rosaceae 

This large tree resembling the whitebeam (Sorbus arid) and some- 
times planted in parks and gardens is common in northern and 
central Europe, but occurs also in some places in the west of 
England. It produces masses of white flowers in early June at Kew 
and these are very freely worked for nectar. 

TAMARISK Tamarix spp.: Tamaricaceae 

These are favourite shrubs for gardens near the sea, being very 
well suited for exposed seaside conditions. They are either grown 
for ornament on account of their feathery foliage and pretty 
flowers or as hedges and wind-breaks. The common tamarisk 
(T.gallica or T.anglica) is much used in this way, being easily 
grown from cuttings planted direct. It has become freely natural- 
ized in some seaside districts. Flowering takes place in July and 
August and the bunches of small pink flowers attract bees for nec- 
tar. The same plant occurs in other countries where it is sometimes 
a source of surplus honey, as well as being useful for pollen (23; 4). 
The honey, however, is reputed to be of poor quality and liable to 
spoil better quality honey if mixed with it (American Bee Journal, 
March 1941). 

Some of the garden forms of tamarisk (T.tetranda] are in flower 
earlier and also attract bees. 

TANSY Tanacetum vulgare: Composilae 

Honey bees do visit the yellow flower heads of this very common 
wild plant and have been observed probing for nectar as well as 
gathering pollen. However, they do not appear to visit it in large 
numbers. Possibly the strong smell does not appeal to them. It can 
hardly be called a good bee plant. 

The dried flower heads, leaves and stalks are said to make good 
smoker fuel, burning slowly and with a pleasant aroma (Bee World, 


TEA TREE Lycium chinense: Solanaceae 

The writer has never observed bees taking much notice of the 
purple flowers of this common plant, known also as Chinese box 
thorn, although some observers have recorded its being visitqd by 
hive bees for nectar and pollen (Bee Craft, 1936). With its long 
arching branches, somewhat spiny, and orange berries it is often 


to be seen wild in hedges and is a familiar sight near the sea. 

TEAZLE Dipsacus fullonum: Dipsaceae (Plate 17} 

The spiney seed-head of the Fuller's Teazle is still extensively 
used in cloth manufacture for raising the nap of woollen cloth. 
Most of the seed-heads have been imported from European coun- 
tries in the past but the crop has been grown in many parts of 
Britain. Teazle is a biennial and flowers in its second season when 
the mauve flowers in the thistle-like flower-heads are a great at- 
traction to the honey bee and yield nectar freely. Bees visit them 
all day long. Flowering commences in July in most districts and as 
only a few flowers open at a time, starting at the bottom of the 
flower-head, they are available for several weeks. Honey has been 
obtained from this plant in countries where it is more extensively 
grown, being described as thin but light in colour and of good 
flavour (19). 

The wild teazle (D.sylvestris), which is similar except for the 
spines on the seed-head being straight and not curved, is common 
in many areas and is often to be seen in waste places and along 
water courses. The flowers appear to be equally attractive to bees. 
A European species (D.laciniatus) with deeply cut leaves, which is 
sometimes grown for ornament, also attracts bees when in flower 
at Kew. 

THALICTRUM Thalictrum spp.: Ranunculaceae 

Several species are grown in gardens but more for their attrac- 
tive foliage than for their flowers which have no special appeal. 
However, the honey bee considers them attractive for pollen and 
works them assiduously for it. 

THISTLES Compositae 

A large number of plants fall into the general category of thistles. 
Although many of them are troublesome weeds they may be good 
bee plants and supply nectar and pollen in abundance. 

The most important thistle from the beekeeper's point of view 
is the ubiquitous field thistle (Cirsium arvense) (Plate 13), sometimes 
called Canada thistle or creeping thistle on account of its ability 
to spread by mearis of its creeping roots. This it may do very 
quickly and accounts for the difficulty in eradicating it, for the 
smallest piece left in the soil is capable of forming a new plant. It 
is also spread by means of seeds. It is certainly one of the worst 
weeds the farmer and gardener has to contend with, not only in 



the British Isles but in many other lands. It is common in and 
around cultivated fields and in pastures, especially those grazed 
only by sheep. It sometimes takes almost complete possession of 
abandoned fields and waste land. 

The field thistle grows from one to four feet high according to 
soil conditions and is in flower from July onwards, producing rose- 
purple flower-heads each with 100 or more individual flowers or 
florets. These secrete nectar abundantly. The flower tube is 8-12 
mm. long and terminates in a short bell. Nectar quite often rises 
in the tube as high as this bell and so is easily available to the honey 
bee as well as other insects. The pollen, which is sticky, is also 
greedily collected by bees. The individual grain is spherical and 
spiny when seen under the microscope, as is common in this 
family. It is often found in honey. 

Honey from the field thistle is of good quality, light in colour 
and of excellent flavour, comparing well with lime and clover (20). 
In parts of Canada (Ontario) this honey is often obtained but not 
in Britain where its main value lies in assisting to build up the 
bees' winter stores in the latter part of the season. 

Some thistles have so long a flower tube that the nectar is out 
of reach of the honey bee or only rarely available. However, there 
are several thistles that afford useful late season bee forage. Hive 
bees have been observed visiting the flowers of the following: spear 
thistle (Cirsinm lanceolatum) , melancholy thistle (Cirsium heterophyl- 
lurri), marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), welted thistle (Carduus crispus), 
musk thistle (Carduus nutans] and cotton thistle (Onopodium acan- 

THRIFT Statice maritima: Plumbaginaceae (Plate 30) 

The pink flowers of the common thrift or sea pink are a familiar 
sight near the seashore in June and July. In salt marshes they are 
sometimes extremely abundant, the plants growing everywhere in 
dense cushion-like tufts. They often grow in association with sea 
lavender, a closely related plant, which, however, blooms later. 
Thrift occurs also in mountainous areas. It is considered to be a 
good source of nectar when bees have access to it and useful for 
supplementing the nectar obtained from other sources. Surplus 
honey has been obtained from it (9). 

Besides occurring wild thrift is commonly grown as a garden 
plant, particularly in coastal districts. There are many varieties 
and introduced forms in cultivation which are also attractive to 



THYME Thymus spp.: Labiatae 

Both wild thyme and the garden thyme used for seasoning are 
first-rate bee plants and are well worked for nectar. So also are 
lemon thyme and the many varieties grown in the flower garden 
or rock garden with pink or mauve flowers or variegated leaves. 

Wild thyme ( T.serpyllurri) is very abundant in some parts of the 
country, especially in the chalk districts, on moorland, and on dry 
pastures. It may even impart a purplish colour to the landscape 
when in full flower in June and July in spite of its lowly growth. 
Frequently it grows in combination with wild marjoram, another 
jood bee plant, and the two form a useful combination for any 
nearby beekeeper. Honey is not obtained pure from wild thyme in 
Britain as there are invariably other nectar sources available at the 
;ame time. However, the honey from thyme is known to be of 
excellent quality and flavour and its presence in other honey is 
always likely to improve it. The honey from Mount Hymcttus, 
~amous for its excellence from classical times, is derived from the 
wild thyme of that region. The flowers of thyme are very fragrant 
and have much the same structure as those of wild marjoram. 
Nectar is produced freely and even this has a spicy flavour. 

Garden thyme (T.vnlgaris) is a native of the Mediterranean re- 
gion, where it may cover extensive areas of stony ground and be 
a wonderful sight when in flower in spring. It is then valuable for 
honey. In Britain thyme is often winter killed, especially on the 
heavier soils. Besides being grown for home use it is cultivated on 
a commercial or field scale in some districts, notably in Kent, 
Surrey, Worcestershire, Bedfordshire and Middlesex. It is either 
sold as a green herb or used for drying, being an important con- 
stituent of the mixed herbs sold in packets. While the cultivation 
of thyme must afford useful supplementary bee fodder for nearby 
beekeepers it is probably nowhere sufficiently extensive in Britain 
for surplus honey. 

The ornamental thymes, so well suited for rock gardens or 
covering dry banks and able to exist in poor soils, are also very 
attractive to bees. No bee garden should be without some of them. 
One of the best for attracting bees at Kew, on poor light sandy soil, 
is T.serpyllum variety cocdneus, which produces an abundance of 
pretty reddish flowers and soon spreads. 

TOAD-FLAX Linaria vulgaris: Scrophulariaceae 

In the yellow toad-flax, a common plant along hedgerows and 



the margins of fields, we have an interesting bee plant. The long 
spur of the flower is 10-12 mm. long and nectar collects in this, 
frequently to a depth of 5-6 mm. or more. Only long-tongued 
insects are able to take all the nectar but the hive bee is able to 
have her share and frequently does when nectar is being produced 
freely. This she does by creeping right into the flower and sucking 
out the nectar as far as her tongue will reach, emerging covered 
with pollen. In view of its prevalence in some districts the yellow 
toad-flax may be of greater importance as a minor nectar plant 
in the late summer than is generally supposed. Some of the other 
wild or cultivated species of Linaria are also visited by honey bees 


TOBACCO Nicotiana tabacum: Solanaceat 

Tobacco for smoking has been grown in England and Ireland 
but in strictly limited quantity and under control As the plants 
are normally 'topped' before flowering there are no flowers avail- 
able for bees. However, in other countries where tobacco is grown 
and flowering of the plants takes place there are records of surplus 
honey being obtained, this being described as strong and dark, 
rather like that of buckwheat (19). 

The 'flowering tobacco' grown in the flo\\er garden is similar. 
Frequently the flower tubes arc punctured at the base. 

TOMATO Lycopersicum esculentum: Solanaceae 

Tomato flowers are without nectar but bees have been observed 
visiting them for pollen. However, they seem to offer little attrac- 
tion when other pollen sources are available. 

The strong smell of the tomato plant seems to be offensive to 
bees and it is said that if one manipulates a stock soon after dis- 
budding tomato plants and with the hands smelling of the juice 
or oil of the plant bees are prone to sting. 

TREE-OF-HEAVEN Ailanthus altissima: Simarubaceae 

This large handsome tree from China is often to be seen in cul- 
tivation in the south of England. It produces terminal bunches of 
small white flowers in July or August which bees visit for nectar. 
The flowers are of two kinds, male and female, the former rather 
evil smelling with an odour not unlike that of elder flowers what 
some might describe as a 'cat-like' odour. 

Honey obtained by a London beekeeper (Mr. A. Chesnikov) 
with hives not far from Kensington Gardens was believed, from 



pollen analysis, to be mainly from this source, the Tree-of-Heaven 
being not uncommon in that neighbourhood as a street tree. This 
honey, when fresh, was described as possessing an unpleasant after- 
taste recalling elder, but after being kept for some time the flavour 
changed to one of a pleasant muscatel flavour. The honey was of a 
pale greenish-brown colour and crystallized after about three 
months with a fine grain ('Ailanthus, Source of a Peculiar London 
Honey', R. Melville, Nature, 1944, 640). 

In parts of Europe and North America the Tree-of-Heaven has 
become sufficiently abundant to become a source of surplus honey. 
It spreads readily by means of seeds and suckers and soon becomes 
naturalized. In and around Vienna it is plentiful and the honey 
harvested from it there is said to exceed that from all other sources. 
This also has been described as greenish in colour with a strong 
unpleasant flavour at first which disappears in time. In the vicinity 
of Paris the tree is common but the honey has not a good reputa- 
tion (4). In the United States the Tree-of-Heaven has been exten- 
sively planted as a shade tree and has the reputation of being a 
good nectar yielder. There seems some doubt as to whether it is 
really a source of ill-tasting honey there (American Bee Journal, 
1938, 420). 

TRILLIUM T.grandiflorum: Liliaceae 

The white or rose-coloured flowers of the American wood lily 
sometimes grown in gardens attract bees, but this plant is never 
seen growing in any quantity. 

TULIP Tulipa spp.: Liliaceae 

Some observers (27) record having seen bees visiting tulip 
flowers in numbers for pollen but this does not seem to be general, 
particularly with the late flowering kinds. Possibly other kinds of 
pollen, when available, are preferred by the honey bee. The pollen 
of many garden tulips is of a dark purplish colour. 

TULIP-TREE Liriodendron tulipifera: Magnoliaceae (Plate /) 

The tulip tree is often to be seen in cultivation in Britain, where 

it is quite hardy. Its large tulip-like flowers, that appear in June 

and July, serve to distinguish it readily from other trees. These 

attract bees to some extent in hot sunny weather but at other times 

bees pay no attention to them and no nectar is visible in the flowers. 

In its home-land (eastern North America) the tulip-tree is an 

important source of honey and equals the lime or basswood as a 



nectar producer. The honey from it is of good quality, reddish- 
amber in colour and rather strong (30). There it is found to give 
the best flow when the flowers open late and the weather is warm 
and dry (20) and that in the more northerly limits of its distribu- 
tion it is not much use for nectar (Beekeeping in the Tulip-Tree Region, 
U.S. Farmer's Bulletin No. 1222). The climate of Britain probably 
corresponds more to these 'northerly limits' and the tree is unable 
to be at its best as a source of nectar. 

Flowers of the tulip-tree placed in water overnight in a warm 
room often show large drops of nectar on the yellow mark at the 
base of each of the large petals. According to American observers 
each flower is capable of yielding c not far from a spoonful of nectar' 
(20). As much as three grammes of nectar have been collected 
from a single blossom in America. The nectar is only secreted for 
a short time by each flower about a day and a half. Nevertheless 
it has been calculated that a single tree may yield over 9 Ib. of 
nectar, equivalent to 2-2^ Ib. of honey (30). 

A closely allied tree, the Chinese tulip-tree (Lchinense) is com- 
paratively a newcomer to Britain. The writer has not yet been 
able to gauge its value as a bee plant or nectar producer. 

TUPELO Nyssa sylvatica: Cornaceae 

This tree, also from eastern North America, is famous as a honey 
producer in its native land and grows quite well in Britain but is 
not often cultivated. When in flower at Kew it appears to offer no 
attraction to bees and nectar has not been observed in the flowers. 
In the wild state it is found chiefly in swamps or moist situations. 
Possibly with this tree a light dry soil or else the climate of Britain 
does not favour nectar secretion. 

TURNIP Brassica spp.: Cruciferae 

The turnip is the main 'root crop' of the British farmer and is 
very extensively grown, particularly in Ireland, Scotland and the 
north of England, where the cooler conditions are well suited to 
it. The Swede or Swedish turnip is included with it. 

Normally turnips are harvested at the end of the first season's 
growth, before flowering takes place. Sometimes, however, a cer- 
tain amount of flowering occurs in the first year due to various 
causes bolting, late frosts, etc. When grown for seed and left in 
the ground for a second season flowering is very profuse and a field 
of this sort becomes literally a beekeeper's paradise. The turnip is 
the equal of other well-known Brassicas as a nectar yielder and 


produces a similar type of honey (see Brassica, Mustard, Charlock, 

VALERIAN Valeriana qfficinalis: Valerianaceae 

The small, pale pink flowers of the wild valerian are commonly 
visited by bees for nectar. The plant is often to be found in damp 
shady places near streams and should not be confused with the red 
valerian (Kentranthus ruber] of the flower garden which is naturalized 
in many areas, for this plant has too long a flower tube to be of any 
use to the hive bee. 

Valerian grows three to four feet in height and produces its 
dense clusters of fragrant flowers in July and August. It is culti- 
vated in some parts of the country, especially Derbyshire, for its 
roots, which are used medicinally. Unfortunately for the beekeeper 
the common practice among growers is to cut off the flowering 
stalks as soon as they appear to promote the formation of basal 
leaves, and consequently larger roots. The honey bee also visits the 
flowers of the marsh valerian (V.dioica), a much smaller plant, for 

VEGETABLE MARROW Cucurbila pepo: Cucurbitaceae 

The vegetable marrow is the only one of the large group of edible 
gourds that may be said to be commonly grown out of doors in the 
British Isles. Pumpkins and squashes are occasionally to be seen in 
private gardens or allotments, but their cultivation is not general. 
The large unisexual flowers of these plants are much visited by 
bees as well as by many other insects and supply both nectar and 
pollen. Nectar is produced abundantly at times, being secreted at 
the bottom of the 'cup' of the flower formed by the fusion of the 
calyx and the corolla. Honey has been obtained from pumpkins, 
squashes and melons in countries where they are grown on a large 
scale (19). 

The pollen of the vegetable marrow, like that of other Cucurbits, 
is very adhesive, due to the presence of a thin layer of oily or 
gummy matter on the grain. Viewed microscopically the indivi- 
dual grain is spherical and prickly and very large (about 150 
microns in diameter). It is among the largest found in honey. Both 
hive and bumble bees seem very partial to the pollen and collect 
it in large quantities. 

VERBASCUM Verbascum spp.: Scrophulariaceae 

The verbascums or mulleins are visited by honey bees at times, 



mainly for pollen. The majority, wild and cultivated, are in flower 
late in the summer and so furnish pollen when many other sources 
are over. When nectar is secreted it appears to be done so sparingly 
and on the inner sides of the petals (i i). The so-called great mul- 
lein (V.thapsus) which grows four to five feet high and has light 
yellow flowers, is often to be seen on waste ground, especially on 
chalk or light soils, and is not uncommon as a wild plant. It some- 
times attracts bees well for pollen. 

VERBENA Verbena spp.: Verbenaceae 

There are over 100 species of Verbena, annuals or perennials, and 
mostly natives of the New World. In many the flower tubes are 
too long for the honey bee but in others this is not so and as the) 
often produce nectar freely they are good bee plants. This is UK 
case with some of the blue-flowered, hardy perennial verbenas 
that have been introduced to cultivation in Britain, such as V.has- 
tata and V.stricta, the latter being freely worked for nectar and 
pollen at Kew. 

The only wild verbena in the British Isles is the vervain (V.offici- 
nalis), of great repute in bygone days for medicinal purposes. It is 
very common in England, but less so in Scotland and Ireland, arid 
is often to be seen in quantity around rubbish heaps, along road- 
sides, the outskirts of villages, etc. Its pale lilac flowers appear in 
slender spikes in July and August and bees are frequent visitors for 

VERONICA Veronica spp.: Scrophulariaceae (Plate 32) 

Bees visit the flowers of both the wild and the garden or culti- 
vated Veronicas. Among the latter Veronica longifolia (sometimes 
sold as V.spicata), which is the commonest garden sort, is an excel- 
lent bee plant. It is of sturdy and erect growth, with long flower 
spikes, and is in bloom a long time, hence its general popularity. 
Its flowers never fail to attract the honey bee in large numbers. 
This applies to the various varieties with blue, white, rose or purple 
flowers. The nectar, which may be produced copiously, is secreted 
by the fleshy disc at the base of the ovary and is protected by hairs 
in the throat of the flower tube. No bee garden should be without 
this excellent bee plant, which will thrive in any ordinary garden 
soil in a sunny position, 

VETCH Vicia saliva: Leguminosae 

Vetches or tares are an important forage crop throughout the 



country and are extensively grown, being either spring or autumn 
sown. Unfortunately they do not rank as good or first-class bee 
plants, although bees visit the flowers on occasions and seem to get 
a certain amount of nectar. There are even records of surplus 
honey being obtained from them. This is said to resemble that of 
clover but to have a stronger flavour (23). It would seem that the 
plant may be useful for nectar in some seasons, but not in others 
and that some localities are more favourable than others. 

Like its close relative the field bean (Viciafabd) the vetch has 
well-developed extra-floral nectaries. These become functional 
about a fortnight before the flowers open. As the flower is rather 
long for the honey bee it is not unusual for the nectar to be reached 
from the back or side (American Bee Journal, 1940, 213). 
Besides the common or field vetch there are many wild vetches 
whose flowers may receive visits from the honey bee, such as the 
tufted vetch (V.cracca), bush vetch (V.sepium), horse-shoe vetch 
(Hippocrepis comosa) and the Siberian or hairy vetch (V.villosa). 

VETGHLING Lathyrus spp.: Leguminosae 

The vetchlings are a rather similar group of plants to the vetches, 
scrambling or climbing by means of tendrils, and with winged or 
flattened stems like the sweet-pea which belongs to the same genus. 
There are fewer leaflets per leaf than in the vetches. Although of 
prolific growth they are not so useful to the agriculturist as they 
are less readily eaten by stock and in some instances are suspected 
of poisonous properties. 

The so-called Wagner Pea (Lathyrus sylvestris variety wagneri) is 
probably the most interesting of this group of plants from the bee- 
keeper's point of view for the small pea-like flowers are worked 
most industriously by honey bees for nectar and are produced in 
great profusion. This plant is simply a cultivated form of the 
narrow-leaved everlasting or flat pea (Lathyrus sylvestris), wild in 
many parts of Britain and particularly abundant along some of the 
Cornish cliffs. It was first brought to light or developed by W. 
Wagner of Wiirttemburg from the Carpathian Mountains in Aus- 
tria in the latter part of last century, and is claimed to be much 
more palatable to livestock than the ordinary wild form. It is a 
long-lived perennial with stems three to six feet long and produces 
bunches of small pink flowers, three to ten in each bunch. The 
plant is slow in becoming established and flowering may not take 
place until the second season. When well established in a field, 
which requires two to three years, it forms a dense mass of vegeta- 



tion three to four feet high and covered with flowers. In a small 
plot (spring sown) established by the writer a few plants flowered 
sparingly in the first season. 

The Wagner pea has recently been grown experimentally in 
England and has proved most attractive to bees and obviously a 
good nectar yield er. It is hoped, in the interests of beekeeping, that 
further trials may lead to its being adopted in agriculture either as 
a fodder or forage plant, especially for poor light soils as it is 
drought resistant. It may be useful as a green manure on account 
of the mass of vegetation it produces and its long taproot, or pos- 
sibly as an orchard cover in fruit growing districts. The Wagner 
pea has attracted attention in the United States as a bee plant 
(American Bee Journal, 1941, 5 40- 1 ) . 

VIOLET Viola odorata: Violaceae 

In warmer climates violets are commonly visited by honey bees 
for nectar. Among the many varieties in cultivation the length of 
the nectar-containing spur is variable and some are better suited 
for the hive bee than others. The wild violets of the hedgerows 
appear so early in the year that they are seldom likely to be of any 
consequence as a source of nectar. Bees also visit the flowers of the 
common wild viola or pansy (V. tricolor) but it is probably of little 
account as a bee plant. However, its pollen has been found in 
honey (27). 

VIPER'S BUOLOSS Echium vulgare: Boiaginaceae (Plate 27} 

The conspicuous purple flowers of this plant are well known for 
their attraction to bees. Without doubt the viper's bugloss is one 
of the most stately of British wild plants and one of the most 
beautiful. Its rough stem is speckled (like a viper) and grows from 
one to three feet in height. The narrow leaves are also rough or 

The plant sometimes occurs as a weed in and around fields but 
is most frequently seen on chalky hills and sea cliffs. It has become 
a bad weed in some parts of Canada. Unfortunately for the bee- 
keeper the plant is somewhat local in its distribution in Britain. 
Flowering takes place mainly in June and July. The colour of the 
flowers is somewhat variable and in addition to purple may be 
pale blue, bluish-pink or even white. The plant sometimes finds a 
place in the flower garden, although other Echiums are more 
generally cultivated. 

Nectar is produced freely in the flowers of this plant and it has 



frequently been recommended for sowing in waste places to im- 
prove the bee pasturage of a district. It was one of the plants 
selected for sowing on the cuttings and embankments of roads and 
railways in Germany for this purpose (Bee World, 1935, 105). 

A similar plant, the Jersey Bugloss (Echium plantagineum) , a Euro- 
pean species which occurs in Jersey and parts of Cornwall, is also 
reputed to be a'good bee plant. It has become a common weed in 
Australia, especially South Australia, where it may cover acres of 
wheat land. Commonly known as 'blue weed' or 'Patterson's curse' 
it has a reputation there of being a useful source of nectar and 

VIRGINIA CREEPER Parthenocissus quinquefolia: Vitaceae 

. This climber is very commonly cultivated. It is to be seen cover- 
ing walls and the sides of houses everywhere and is valued for the 
brilliant red colour it turns in the autumn just before the leaves 

Its flowers are in small bunches of three to eight and are not at 
all conspicuous, especially when the plant grows on walls for then 
they are completely hidden from view by the overhanging leaves. 
Their presence, however, is usually given away by the merry hum 
of bees as they seek them for nectar and for pollen. 

The Virginia creeper is regarded as a useful nectar plant in its 
native land (eastern North America), where it frequently climbs 
the loftiest trees. In the mid-lands of Natal, where the creeper is 
favoured on houses for keeping them cool in the hot weather, the 
writer has many times observed it swarming with bees when in 

WALLFLOWER Cheiranthus spp.: Cruciferae 

Wallflowers are among the most useful of the early spring garden 
flowers for bees and are visited constantly for nectar and pollen 
when weather is suitable. There seems to be little if any difference 
between the many varieties in cultivation where attraction to bees 
is concerned. All are popular except of course the double-flowered 
varieties and these are not grown to nearly the same extent as the 
single forms. 

The pollen is pale or greenish-yellow in colour as a rule, the 
individual grain being rather small (about eighteen microns) and 
rough in outline. The nectaries take the form of two swollen ridges 
at the base of the two short stamens. 

The wallflower is not really a native of Britain, being of Euro- 



pean origin, but is to be found naturalized or apparently wild in 
some parts of the country, especially on cliffs near the sea, old 
walls, and rocky places generally. 

WALNUT Juglans regia: Juglandaceae 

The walnut is of little consequence to bees. It produces no nec- 
tar, being a wind-pollinated tree. The pollen is light and powdery 
as is usual in plants of this kind the type of pollen bees do not 
usually care about when other types of pollen are available. As the 
walnut produces its tassels of male flowers fairly late in the season, 
when there is an abundance of other pollen, it is not usual for bees 
to visit the blossoms to any extent in Britain. In other countries, 
however, bees have been known to work the flowers zealously for 
pollen (23). 

WATERCRESS Nasturtium ojjicinale: Cruciferae 

The flowers of watercress, like those of most Cruciferous plants, 
arc a source of nectar to the hive bee and are usually available 
from June till August. The plant is common on the margins of 
streams and ponds. It is also cultivated on a large scale for market 
in special watercress beds, sometimes several acres in extent. How- 
ever, normally it is harvested before it reaches the flowering stage. 
The water-rocket (N.amphibid) is a somewhat similar plant with 
yellow flowers and is also visited for nectar. 

WHITLOW GRASS Erophila verna: Cruciferae 

The small white flowers of this wild British plant, often to be 
seen on old walls and in dry rocky places, are sometimes visited by 
bees for nectar and pollen. 

WILLOW Salix spp.: Salicaceae (Plates) 

The willows or sallows are useful plants to the beekeeper in the 
early part of the season. There are some twenty wild species in the 
British Isles as well as numerous hybrid forms. Other introduced 
kinds, like the weeping willow (S.babylonica} are also often culti- 
vated. The willows vary in size from large trees, like the crack 
willow (S.fragilis) and white willow (S.alba) to small shrubs, some- 
times not more than a few inches high and of a creeping nature. 
Some, like the common sallow (S.cinerea) and goat willow (S.caprea) 
commonly called 'palm' and much sought for decoration when 
in the silvery bud stage and the dwarf or creeping willow ( 
pens) are widely distributed throughout the country and very 



prevalent in some districts. Their presence is always appreciated 
by local beekeepers as a source of early pollen and nectar. 

Willows are in flower from March to May according to species 
and district. The male and female catkins are borne on different 
plants in most cases. These vary much in size and shape and are 
generally silky, the minute flowers constituting them being devoid 
of petals and consisting only of a scale bearing the stamens or pistil 
in the case of the female catkin. Small yellow glands or nectaries 
may also be present. Many willows are a source of nectar as well 
as pollen to the honey bee when weather conditions are favour- 
able. Catkins generally appear on the naked shoots of the previous 
summer and before the leaves arrive. Both male and female flowers 
secrete nectar under favourable conditions. 

.The willows already mentioned are known to be visited by honey 
bees for nectar and pollen (i i) but there are many more. Included 
among them are the round-eared willow (S.auritd) found in woods, 
almond-leaved willow (S.triandra) an osier cultivated for basket- 
making, and the violet willow (S.daphnoides). The last-mentioned 
is a European willow, although naturalized in Yorkshire, and has 
been recommended on the Continent for cultivation by beekeepers, 
for it flowers earlier than most willows and has large catkins (Bee 
World, 1936, 138). Furthermore it is highly ornamental with its 
waxy, purple shoots. 

Willows in close proximity to an apiary are always desirable. 
Most willows are easily propagated by cuttings placed in the open 
ground any time between November and early March. In the case 
of the tree sorts like the crack willow and white willow quite large 
sets, six to ten feet long and one to one and a half inches in diameter 
usually root readily and are commonly used. If difficulty is ex- 
perienced in obtaining rooting, as may happen in dry localities, 
the following is a more certain method of obtaining rooted plants. 
Cuttings about a foot long and the thickness of a pencil are taken 
in the winter and kept in a cool place or 'heeled in'. In March 
these are placed with their ends in water (half immersed) and 
brought indoors or placed in a greenhouse when the warmth and 
moisture soon causes profuse root development. The rooted cut- 
tings may then be planted out in April or May and kept watered 
for a time in the event of dry weather. 

The male forms of the goat willow (S.caprea) with their large 
handsome catkins are probably as good as any for cultivation by 
the beekeeper. Some forms flower earlier than others and could be 
used to lengthen the flowering period. Honey may be obtained 

O 20Q 

from willow in seasons when a fine spell of weather accompanies 
flowering, as in 1945. 

WINTER ACONITE Eranthis hyemalis: Ranunculaceae (Plate 4} 

This tuberous-rooted perennial, with its attractive yellow flowers 
produced so early in the year (January to March), is not a native 
plant but originated from western Europe. It is naturalized in 
woods here and there and is much favoured for shrubberies as it 
does not exceed six to eight inches in height and flowers before 
anything else. In mild winters the flowers are out in January and 
are always well ahead of the crocus. With suitable weather bees 
work them industriously, not only for pollen but for nectar as 

In this flower the nectar is produced and stored in the same way 
as in the Christmas rose (Plelleborus), in vase-shaped containers 
arranged on the flower where the petals are usually to be found. 
They are in fact modified petals. 

Like the crocus the winter aconite is well worth cultivating near 
hives as an early source of pollen. Once established it requires little 
attention and grows well under shrubs or trees where few other 
plants succeed. It is usually in flower from four to six weeks. 

WINTER CRESS Barbarea vulgaris: Cruciferae 

This plant occurs both wild and cultivated. Its yellow mustard- 
like flowers appear in dense terminal clusters from May to June. 
Bees visit them for nectar. 

WISTERIA W.sinensis: Leguminosae 

The purple masses of bloom of this magnificent creeper will 
attract the honey bee in some seasons but not in others. They 
appear towards the end of May as a rule and there is sometimes 
a second but much smaller crop of flowers in August. In bright or 
warm weather bees visit the flowers for nectar at Kew but when 
conditions are cool they seem to offer little attraction. In other 
warmer climates the flowers of Wistaria are known to be worked for 
nectar and pollen (23). 

WOAD Isatis tinctoria: Cruciferae 

The woad plant of the Ancient Britons is to be found wild in old 
stone pits and chalk quarries in some parts of the country. Its loose 
clusters of yellow flowers attract bees for nectar but the plant is 
nowhere sufficiently abundant to be of any consequence to the 



beekeeper. It was cultivated as a dye plant at one time but its 
cultivation in England was finally given up some years ago. 

WOOD SAGE Teucrium scorodonia: Labiatae 

Wood sage or wood germander as it is sometimes called grows 
in masses in woods, in heathy places and in other situations. It is 
one to two feet high and has wrinkled leaves very like those of 
ordinary sage. Its yellowish-green flowers appear in July and 
August. They often have a faint tinge of purple and grow in ter- 
minal one-sided clusters. The flower tube is some 9-10 mm. in 
length and as nectar is secreted freely and may reach a level of 
4-5 mm. up the tube the honey bee is able to obtain it. Bees often 
.work the flowers very freely in fact, and surplus has been obtained 
from the plants in parts of the country where the plant is common 


Some of the other species of Teucrium attract bees, including the 
water germander (T.scordium), which, however, is not a common 

WORMWOOD Artemisia absinthium: Compositae 

This strong-smelling plant is repulsive rather than attractive to 
bees but is nevertheless of interest to the beekeeper on this account. 
Some have recommended rubbing the hands with the plant when 
manipulating to avoid stings. It is also claimed that it will keep 
away wax moth from stored combs for all insects dislike it, and 
that in the case of robbing a few crushed twigs placed in front of 
the hive are likely to be effective. When a swarm has settled in an 
inconvenient place, as between the branches of trees or bushes it 
may be induced to move by stroking it with bruised branches of 
wormwood (Bee World, 1931, 79). 

YELLOW-WOOD Cladrastis tinctoria: Leguminosae 

This interesting tree from the south-eastern United States is not 
often cultivated in Britain and furthermore does not flower regu- 
larly. When it does produce flowers they appear in June and are in 
large bunches a foot or more long. They are white and slightly 
fragrant. Bees visit them at Kew in some seasons. In its native land 
the tree is the source of some surplus honey (19). 

YEW Taxus baccata: Taxaceae (Plate 23) 

The yew is common both wild and cultivated, some of the 

largest trees being those in churchyards and these #re often of 


great age. It is most prevalent in the chalk districts of south-east 
England. On the western Sussex Downs it forms extensive woods. 
Yew flowers early, generally in March, and produces pollen in 
abundance from its male flowers. This is light and powdery and 
will often float away in clouds on the branches being tapped. Bees 
work the flowers well for pollen in some districts. Possibly, as is the 
case with other dry or wind-borne pollens, bees only take it when 
no other source is available. The yew does not yield nectar. 



(1) Alcfeld, F., Die Bienenftora Deutschlands und der Schweiz (Neu- 

wied, 1863). 

(2) Armbruster, L. and Oenike, G., Die Pollenformen als Mittel zur 

Honigherkunftsbestimmung (Neumunster, 1929). 

(3) Browne, C. A., Chemical Analysis and Composition of American 

Honeys (U.S. Dept. Agric. Bull. No. no, 1908). 

(4) Delaigues, Abb6, Les Abeilles et les Fleurs: Plantes Mellifires 

(Paris, 1926). 

(5) Edgworth, M. P., Pollen (London, 1887). 

(6) Erdtman, G., An Introduction to Pollen Analysis (Altham, Mass., 

U.S.A, 1943). 

(7) Goodacre, W. A., Honey and Pollen Flora of New South Wales 

(Sydney, 1938). 

(8) Hayes, G., Nectar Producing Plants and their Pollen (London, 


(9) Herrod-Hempsall, W., Beekeeping New and Old, Vols. I (1930) 

and II (1937) (London). 

(10) Howes, F. N., Bee Plants in Surrey (Kew Guild Jour., 1943). 
(u) Knuth, P., Handbook of Flower Pollination (Oxford, 1906). 

(12) Lovell,J. H., The Flower and the Bee (London, 1919). 

(13) Mace, H., Bee Farming in Britain (Beekeeping Annual Office, 

Harlow, Essex, 1936). 

(14) Manley, R. O. B., Honey Production in the British Isles (London, 


(15) Melzer, H., Bienen-Nahrpflan&n (1894). 

(16) Mtiller, H., The Fertilization of Flowers (Leipzig, 1883). 

(17) Pammel, L. H. and King, C. M., Honey Plants of Iowa (Des 

Moines, Iowa, U.S.A., 1931). 

(18) Parker, R. L., The Collection and Utilization of Pollen by the 

Honey Bee (Cornell Univ. Agric. Exp. Stn., Memoir No. 
98, 1926). 

(19) Pellett, F. G., American Honey Plants, (American Bee Journal, 

Hamilton, Illinois, U.S.A., 3rd Edit., 1930). 

(20) Root, A. I. and E. R., The A.B.C. and X.T.%. of Bee Culture 

(Medina, Ohio, U.S.A., 1919 Edit.)- 


(21) Scullen, H. A. and Vansell, G. H., Nectar and Pollen Plants of 

Oregon (Agric. Exp. Stn., Corvallis, Oregon, 1943). 

(22) Tinsley, J., Experimental Work in the Production of Heather Honey 

(West of Scotland Agric. College, Bull. No. 144, Glasgow, 


(23) Vansell, G. H., Nectar and Pollen Plants of California (Berkeley 

Agric. Exp. Stn., Univ. of Calif., Bull. No. 517, 1931). 

(24) Von Tafel, Dr., Der Bienengarten (1942). 

(25) Wedmore, E. B., A Manual of Beekeeping (London, 1932). 

(26) Wodehouse, R., Pollen Grains (New York, 1935). 

(27) Yate-Allen, Rev. M., European Bee Plants and their Pollen 

(Alexandria, Egypt, 1937). 

(28) Zander, E., Pollengestaltung und Herkunftsbestimmung bei Bliiten-. 

honig (Berlin, 1935). 

(29) Report on the Marketing of Honey and Beeswax in England and 

Wales (H.M. Stationery Office, London, 1931). 

(30) Pryce-Jones, J., Some Problems Associated with Nectar, Pollen and 

Honey (Linnean Society, London, 1944. Extracted from 
Proceedings Session 155, pp. 129-74). 



NOTE The first page reference after each entry in the index indicates 
the page on which the matter is dealt with in greatest detail 

Abies, 49 

Acacia, 92, 13; false, 92, 36; Japanese, 


Acer, 82 
Achillea, 93, 41 
Aconite, 93 
Aconitwn, 93 
Actinomeris, 141 
Adonis, 177, 40 
Aesculus, 153, 39 
Agastache, 97 
Agrimonia, 93 
Agrimony, 93 
Ailanthus, 200 
Alder, 94, 50 
Alfalfa, 1 60; Cossack, 161 
Alkanet, 96 
Allison* 98 
Allium, 94 
Almond, 95, 37 
Alnus, 94 
Alopecurus, 145 
Althaea, 150 
Atyssum, 95, 40, 41, 43 
Amelanchier, 156 
Amorpha, 136 
Anchusa, 96, 41 
Andromeda, 21, 22 
Anemone, 96 
Angelica tree, 99 
Anise hyssop, 97 
Anoda, 97 
Anthericum, 91 
Antirrhinum, 98 
Annuals, 40 
Anthemis, 119, 164 
Apium, 117 
Apple, 72; crab, 74 
Apricot, 98 
Aquilegia, 122 
to, 98, 41 
, 98, 41 

Arbor vitae, 46 

Arbutus, 194 

Arctium, in 

Arctostaphylos, 102 

Arnica, 99 

Artemisia, 2 1 1 

Artichoke, 99; Jerusalem, 99, 47 

Asclepias, 168 

Ash, 99, 48 

Asparagus, 99 

Arfer, 100, 40; China, 100, 40 

Atropa, 103 

Aubrietia, 100, 41 

Autumn crocus, 41, 126 

Azalea, 101 

Ballota, 152 

Balsam, 101, 40 

Baptisia, 101 

Barbarea, 210 

Barberry, 101, 41, 45 

Bartonia, 102 

Basil, 102, 42 

Basswood, 65 

Bay laurel, 157 

Bean, 86; broad, 87; French, 87; field, 
87, 355 horse, 87; kidney, 87; lima, 
88; scarlet runner, 87; soy, 88; tick, 


Bearberry, 102 
Bedstraw, 102 
Bee balm, 102 
Bee gardens, 42 
Bee glue, 49 
Bee pasturage, 35 
Beech, 103, 46, 48, 50 
Beeswax, 27 
Beetles, 12 
Begonia, 103 
Belladonna, 103 
Bellfiower, 114 
Bell heath, 70 




BerberiSy 101, 39, 45 
Bergamot, 104, 102 
Be tula, 105 
Bidensy 104 
Bilberry, 104 
Bindweed, 123 
Birch, 105, 50 
Bird cherry, 77 
Bird's-foot trefoil, 105 
Bistort, 178 
Blackberry, 83, 36; Himalaya giant, 

47;JohnInnes, 47 
Blackthorn, 106 
Bladder Senna, 106 
Blaeberry, 104 
Bloodroot, 1 06 
Bluebottle, 118 
Bluebell, 106 
Blue weed, 207 
Bog asphodel, 107 
Bogbean, 107 

Borage, 107, 36, 43; wort, 145 
BoragOy 107 
Box, 1 08; elder, 163 
Bracken, 109 
Bramble, 20, 36 
Brank, 88 

Brassica, 79, 188, 202 
Broccoli, 109 
Broom, no 
Brussels sprouts, 109 
Bryonia, no 
Bryony, 1 10 
Buckeye, 154, 23 
Buckthorn, no, 36, 41 
Buckwheat, 88, 35, 43; climbing, 178 
Buddleia, 1 1 1, 39, 41, 44 
Buffalo berry, 1 1 1 
Bugloss, 206, 36 
Bulbs, 41 
Bullace, 106 
Bumble bees, 30 
Burdock, in 
Burnet, 112 
Butter and eggs, 159 
Butterbur, 112 
Buttercup, 113 
Butterflies, 29 
Button bushy 118 

BuxuSy 1 08 

Cabbage, 42, 109 

Calamint, 116 

Calendula, 1 13, 40 

Calico bush, 157 

Californian poppy, 113 

Callicarpa, 114, 41 

Callistephusy 100 

Calluna, 66 

Caltha, 164 

Camassia, 114, 41 

Campanilla, 123 

Campanula, 114, 41 

Candytuft, 114, 40 

Canterbury bell, 1 14, 41 

Cape hyacinth, 139 

Caragana, 174 

Cardamme, 127 

Cardoon, 115 

Carduus, 198 

CarpinuSy 152 

Carrot, 115 

CarthamuSy 185 

Caryopterisy 115 

Cascara, in 

Castanea, 119 

Castor oil plant, 115 

Catalpa, 116, 37 

Catmint, 116, 38, 41 

Catnip, 117,36,42,44 

Catsear, 117 

Cauliflower, 109 

CeanothuSy 1 1 7 

Cedar, 49; incense, 49 

Cedrusy 49 

Celandine, 113 

Celery, 117 

Celtisy 118 

Centaurea, 1 18, 40, 41 

Cephalanthus, no 

Cercisy 156 

Chaenomelesy 156 

Chamomile, 119 

Chapman honey plant, 132 

Charlock, 79, 15; jointed, 181 

Cheiranthusy 207 

Cherry, 76; bird, 77; flowering, 77, 

37; Japanese, 77; laurel, 157; 

morello, 77; plum, 76, 37 



Chestnut, 1 19, 48, 50 

Chickweed, 119 

Chicory, 120, 35 

Chinese box thorn, 196 

Chionodoxa, 140, 41 

Chives, 94 

Christmas rose, 148, 15 

Chrysanthemum, 129 

Cichorium, 120, 133 

Cinquefoil, 179 

Cirsium, 197 

Cistus, 1 20 

Cladrastis, 211 

Clarkia, 120, 40 

Claytonia, 120 

Clematis, 121 

Cleome, 121 

Clethra, 121 

Clover, 52; alpha, 167, Alsike, 57; 
bee, 165; Bokhara, 165; carnation, 
57; crimson, 57, 38; Dutch, 53; 
harefoot, 58; hop, 58; honey, 165; 
hubam, 167; Italian, 57; Ladino, 
53; melana, 167; red, 55; straw- 
berry, 58; Swedish, 57; sweet, 165, 
44; white, 52, 36; wild white, 53; 
yellow suckling, 58; Zofka, 56 

Cobnut, 147 

Cochlearia, 188 

Cocksfoot, 145 

Colchicum, 165, 41 

Coleoptera, 29 

Colletia, 122 

Collinsia, 122,40 

Coltsfoot, 122 

Columbine, 122 
Colutea, 1 06 
Comfrey, 123 
Coneflower, 123 
Conifers, 46, 48 
Convallaria, 159 
Convolvulus, 123, 40 
Coreopsis, 124, 40 
Corn cockle, 124 
Cornflower, 118, 40 
Corn rattle, 124 
Cornelian cherry, 130 
Cornus, 130, 39 
Corylus, 146 
Cosmos, 40 

Cotoneaster, 124, 36, 39, 41, 43, 46 

Cowberry, 104 

Cow grass, 55; parsnip, 149; wheat, 


Colletia, 122 
Coral berry, 191 
Crab apple, 74 
Crab, flowering, 37 
Crambe, 189 
Cranes-bill, 125 
Crataegus, 80, 37 
Crepis, 146 

Crocus, 126, 41, 43; autumn, 126, 41 
Crown Imperial, 126 
Cuckooflower, 127 
Cucumber, 127, 144 
Cucumis, 127 
Cucurbita, 203 
Cup plant, 191 
Cupressus, 46 
Currant, 127, 41 
Cuscuta, 130 
Cydonia, 181 
Cynara, 99, 115 

Cypress, Lawson's, 46; Monterey, 46 
Cytisus, 1 10 
Cynoglossum, 128, 41 

Dactylis, 145 
Daffodil, 128, 41 
Dahlia, 128 
Daisy, 129 

Dandelion, 89; Russian, 91 
Daphne, 129 
Date plum, 129 
Daucus, 115 
Deadnettle, 130 
Devil's bit, 188 
Dewberry, 183 
Dictamnus, 138 
Diervilla, 130 
Diospyros, 129 
Dipsacus, 197 
Diptera, 29 
Discaria, 130 
Dodder, 130 
Dogwood, no, 130 
Doronicum, 131 
Dorycnium, 131 
Dracocephdum, 3- 


Echinops, 131, 44 
Echium, 206, 207 
Elaeagnus, 172 
Elder, 132 
Elm, 132, 48 
Elsholtzia, 133, 41, 44 
Endive, 133 
Epilobium, 85, 41 
Eranthis, 210, 15, 41 
JSnVa, 39 
Erigeron, 134, 41 
Er odium, 134 
Erophila, 208 
Eryngium, 189 
Escallonia, 134, 39, 41, 46 
Eschscholtzia, 113, 40 
Eucryphia, 134 
Eupatorium, 135, 41 
Euphorbia, 193, 21 
Euphrasia, 135 
Evening Primrose, 135 
Eyebright, 135 

Fagopyrum, 88 

F0MJ, 103 

False Acacia, 92; indigo, 136 

Farm crops, 35 

Fennel, 136 

Field bean, 86; crops, 35 

Fig, 72- 

Figwort, 136, 44 

Filaree, 134 

Fir, 49 

Firethorn, 180 

Flax, 137 

Fleabane, 134 

Flies, 29 

Flixweed, 155 

Flower honey, 1 7 

Flowering shrubs, 41 

Foeniculum, 136 

Forget-me-not, 138 

Foxtail, 145 

Fragaria, 194 

Fraxinella, 138 

Fraxinus, 99 

French honeysuckle, 138 

Fritillaria, 126, 41 

Fruit blossom, 72 

Fuchsia, 139, 41 


Furze, 143 

Gaillardia, 139, 40 

GalanthuSy 191, 41 

Gale gay 141 

Galeopsisy 148 

Galiwn, 102 

Gallberry, 150 

Galtonia, 139 

Garden flowers, 39 

Garlic, wild, 94 

Garrya, 139 

Gaultheria, 139 

Gean, 77 

Gelsemium, 21 

Genista, 145 

Geranium, 125, 41 

Germander, 211 

Geum, 140, 41 

Gt'&z, 140, 40 

Gipsy- wort, 140, 44 

Glechoma, 145 

Gleditschia, 150 

Globe thistle, 131 

Glory-of-the-snow, 140, 41 

Goat's rue, 141 

Godetia, 141, 40 

Gold dust, 96 

Golden honey plant, 141 

Golden rod, 141, 41 

Gooseberry, 142 

Gorse, 143, 36, 45 

Gourds, 143 

Grape, 144 

Grape hyacinth, 144, 41 

Grasses, 144 

Greenweed, 145 

Grindelia, 145 

Gromwell, 145 

Ground ivy, 145 

Groundsel, 146 

Guizotia, 171 

Gum weed, 145 

Gypsophila, 146, 40, 41 

Hagberry, 77 

Harebell, 114 

Halesia, 192 

Hardheads, 118 

Hawk's beard, 146; bit, 146 



Hawkweed, 146 

Hawthorn, 80, 1 1, 45, 48 

Hazel, 146 

Heath, 70, 14, 41, 43; Cornish, 71; 

cross leaved, 71; Irish, 71; bell, 


Heather, 66, u, 13; bell, 70 
Heathennint, 133 
Hedera, 154 

Hedge garlic, 155; mustard, 155 
Hedges, 44 
Hedysarum, 138, 41 
Helenium, 147, 41 
Helianthemum, 184, 120 
Helianthus, 195, 47 
Heliotrope, 147 
Heliotropium, 147 
Hellebore, 147, 15 
Hellebarus, 147 
Hemp agrimony, 135 
Hemp nettle, 148 
Henbane, 148 
Heraeleum, 148 
Herbs, 42, 35 
Hercules club, 99 
Heron f sbill, 134 
Hesperis, 184 
Heuchera, 149 
Hibiscus, 149 
Hieracium, 146 
Hogweed, 149 
Holly, 149, 45 
Hollyhock, 150, 41, 44, 50 
Honesty, 150 
Honey, 16; and nectar source, 16; and 

soil, 17; colour of, 17; Conifer, 49; 

flower, 17; imported, 20; locust, 

150; Narbonne, 20, 185; poisonous, 

20; red, 183; unpalatable, 20 
Honeydew, 23, 47 
Honeysuckle, 151; bush, 41, 43 
Hop, 151, medic, 58; tree, 152 
Horehound, 152, 36, 41, 42 
Hornbeam, 152 
Horse Chestnut, 153, 37; Indian, 153; 

red, 153 
Horsemint, 104 
Hound's tongue, 128 
Huckleberry, 104 
Humulus, 151 

Hyacinth, 154, 16, 41 
Hyacinthus, 154, 41 
Hydrangea, 154 
Hymcnoptera, 29 
Hyoscyamus, 148 
Hypericum, 194 
Hypochaeris, 117 
Hyssop, 154, 41, 42; anise, 97 
Hyssopus, 154 

Iberis, 114 
Ice plant, 167 

//'*, 149 

Impatiens, 101, 40 

Indian bean, 116; corn, 162, currant, 


Inkberry, 150 
Ipomoea, 123 
I satis, 210 
Ivy, 154 
Ixia, 41 

Jack-by-the-hedge, 155 
Jacobaea, 155 
Jacob's ladder, 156 
Japonica, 156 
Jasione, 188 
Jonquil, 128, 41 
Judas tree, 156 
Juglans, 208 
Juneberry, 156 
June gap, 38 
Juniper, 49 
Juniperus, 49 

Kale, 109 
Kalmia, 157, 21 
Kentranthus, 203 
Knapweed, 118 
Koelr enter ia, 157 

Lamium, 130 
Lapsana, 171 
Larch, 49 
Larix, 49 
Lathyrus, 205 
Laurel, 157 
Laurustinus, 157, 45 
Lavandula, 158 
Lavatera, 158, 40, 41 
Lavender, 158, 41, 42 



Leek, 94 

Leontodoriy 146 

LeonuniSy 169 

Lepidoptera, 29, 128 

Leptosiphon, 158 

Leucojum, 192, 41 

Leucothoe, 21 

LibocedruSy 49 

Ligustrum, 179 

Lilac, 159 

jLtffiffn, 159 

Lily, 159; of the valley, 159 

Lime, 59, 15, 48; American, 65; com- 
mon, 60, 66; Crimea, 64, 66; cut- 
leaved, 65, 66; fern-leaved, 65; 
Japanese, 65, 66; Mongolian, 65; 
North American, 65; pendant, 60; 
poisoning by, 23; small-leaved, 60; 
white, 60 

Limnanthesy 159, 40, 43 

Limoniuniy 189 

Linaria, 199 

Ling, 67 

Linum, 40 

Liriodendron, 201 

Lithospermum, 145 

Locality, 14 

Locust, 92 

Loganberry, 160 

London pride, 188 

Lonicera, 39, 43 

Loosestrife, 160, 36, 44 

Lotus, 105 

Love-in-a-mist, 171 

Lucerne, 160 

Lunaria, 150 

Lupine, 161 

LupinuSy 161 

Luzula, 190 

Lychnis, 124, 181 

Lycium, 196 

Lycoperdon, 180 

Lycopersicuniy 200 

LycopuSy 140 

Ly thrum, 160, 41 

Lysimachia, 160 

Madwort, 95 
Magnolia, 161 
Mahonia, 162 

Maize, 162 

Mallow, 162, 40, 4!) 44 
Malope, 163, 40 
Malusy 72 
Malva, 162 

Maple, 163, 37; Great, 83 
Marigold, 113, 40 
Marjoram, 163, 41, 42 
Marrubiurriy 152 
Marsh Mallow, 150 
Marsh marigold, 164, 16 
May, 80 
Mayweed, 164 
Meadow foam, 159 
Meadow saffron, 165 
Meadowsweet, 165 
Medic, 161 
Medicago 9 160 
Medlar, 165 
Melampyrum, 125 
Melicopf, 2 1 

Melilot, King Island, 1 67 
Melilotus, 165, 36, 44 
Melissa, 102 
Melon, 144 
Mentha 9 169 
Ment&lia, 102 
Menyanthesy 107 
Mescmbryanthcmum, 167 
Mespilus, 165 
Mezereon, 129 
Michaelmas daisy, 100, 41 
Micromeria, 167 

Mignonette, 168, 40, 43; wild, 168 
Milkweed, 168 
Milkwort, 168 
Mint, 169, 42 
Mock orange, 169 
Monarda, 104 
Motherwort, 169, 36, 44 
Moths, 29 

Mountain ash, 170; tobacco, 99 
Mulberry, 72 
Mullein, 203 
Muscari, 144, 41 
Mustard, 79, 15, 35; wild, 80 
Myosotis, 138,41 
Myrobalan, 76, 170 
Myrtle, 170 



Narcissus, 128, 41 

Narthedum, 107 

Nasturtium, 170, 208, 40 

Nectar, 1 1 ; composition of, 1 1 ; dearth 
periods, 38; function of, n; secre- 
tion, 12; sugar concentration of, 12 

Nectaries, 15 

Nemophila, 170, 40 

Nepeta, 116, 117, 145 

Nettle, 171 

New Zealand flax, 171 

Nicotiana, 200 

Nigella, 171,40 

Niger seed, 171 

Nipplewort, 171 

Nuttalia, 171 

'Nyssa, 202 

Oak, 172,48 
Ocimum, 102 
Oenothera, 135 
Olea, 172 
Olearia, 172 
Oleaster, 172 
Olive, ^72 
Onion, 94 
Onobrychis, 77 
Onopodium, 198 
Orchids, 172 
Oregon Grape, 162 
Origanum, 163 
Ornithopus, 190 
Oso berry, 172 
Oxydendrum, 173 

Paeonia, 175 

Pagoda tree, 173 

Palm, 208 

Pansy, 206 

Papaver, 179 

Parsnip, 173 

Parthenocissus, 207 

Pasque flower, 96 

Patterson's curse, 207 

Pea, 174; everlasting, 205; flat, 205; 

tree, 174 
Peach, 174 
Pear, 74 
Pelargonium, 125 
Pennycress, 175 

Pennyroyal, 169 

Pentstemon, 175 

Peony, 175,41 

Peppermint, 169 

Perennials, 40 

Perezia, 175, 40 

Perovskia, 175,41,44 

Persicary, 178 

Persimmon, 130 

Petasites, 112 

Petrocallis, 184 

Petty whin, 145 

Peucedanum, 173 

Phaeelia, 176, 40, 43 

Pheasant's eye, 177, 40 

Philadelphus y 169 

Phormium, 171 

Picea, 49 

Pieris, 177, 21, 22 

Pin clover, 134 

Pine, 49; Scots, 49 

Pinus, 49 

Pisum, 174 

Plane tree, 83 

Plantago, 177 

Plantain, 177 

Plum, 75 

Poison ivy, 195 

Polemonium, 156 

Pollen, 24; collecting, 25; colour, 26; 
composition, 25; cycle, 24; grains, 
27; in honey, 28; microscopy, 29; 
poisoning, 1 13; sources, 24; vita- 
mins in, 17 

Pollination, 29 

Poly gala, 168 

Polygonatum, 192 

Polygonum, 178,47 

Poplar, 178,50 

Poppy, 179,40 

Populus, 178 

Potentilla, 179 

Poterium, 112 

Primrose, 179 

Primula, 179 

Privet, 179,22,41,46 

Propolis, 47, 49 

Prunella, 190 

Prunus, 75, 95, 98, 106, 157, 170, 174 

Ptelea, 152, 39 



PUridium, 109 
Puff ball, 1 80 
Pulicaria, 137 
Pumpkin, 144 
Pyracanthay 180, 39, 41, 44 
Pyrusy 74 

Quamash, 41 

Quercusy 172 

Quince, 181; Japanese, 156 

Radish, 181 

Ragged robin, 181 

Ragwort, 181, 22 

Ramsons, 94 

Ranunculus y 1 13 

Rape, 35 

Raphanusy 181 

Raspberry, 182 

Red bud, 156 

Reseda , 168 

RhamnuSy 1 10, 39 

RhinanthuSy 124 

Rhododendron, 183, 101, 20, 45 

/MMJ, 195 

Ribesy 127, 142 

RicinuSy 115 

Robinia, 92, 36 

Rock beauty, 184; cress, 98; rose, 184 

Rocket, 184 

Rocky Mountain bee plant, 121 

Rosa, 184 

Rose, 184 

Rosemary, 184, 42 

Rosin weed, 145 

RosmarinuSy 185 

Rowan, 170 

Rubusy 83, 1 60, 182 

Rudbeckia, 123, 41, 44 

Rue, 185 

Runch, 181 

Rush, 189 

Ruta, 185 

Safflower, 185 

Sage, 185, 42; Balkan, 186; clary, 

1 86; meadow, 186 
Sainfoin, 77, 35, 38 
Salixy 208 
Sallow, 208 

185, 186, 41, 43 
Sambucusy 132 
Sanguinaridy 106 
Saponariay 187, 40 
SassqfraSy 187 
Saturday 116, 187 
Savory, 187, 42 
Saxifragay 187 
Saxifrage, 187 
Scabiosay 188 

Scabious, 188, 16, 40, 41 
Schizopetalon, 188 
Scillay 1 06, 41 
Scrophulariay 136 
Scurvy grass, 188 

Sea aster, 100; cabbage, 188; holly, 
189; kale, 189; lavender, 189; pink/ 


Sedges, 189 

Seduniy 193 

Self-heal, 190 

SeneciOy 146, 155, 181, 190, 40 

Serradella, 190 

Serviceberry, 156 

SJiallon, 140 

Sheep's bit, 188; laurel, 157 

Shepherdiay 1 1 1 

Shrubs for nectar, 39, 41 

Siberian squill, 107, 43 

Siddy 190 

Sidalcea, 190, 41 

Silphiumy 190 

Silver bell tree, 192 

Silverweed, 179 

Simpson's honey plant, 137 

Sisymbrium, 155 

Skimmia, 191 

Sloe, 1 06 

Snapdragon, 98 

Snowberry, 191, 36, 41 

Snowdrop, 191, 192, 15, 41, 43; tree, 


Snowflake, 192, 41 
SolidagOy 141 
Solomon's seal, 192 
SonchuSy 192 
Sophoray 173 
Sorbusy 170, 196, 39 
Sorrel tree, 1 73 
Sourwood, 173 



Sow thistle, 192 
Soy bean, 87 
Spanish needle, 104 
Spearmint, 169 
Spergula, 193 
Spiraea, 165 
Spruce, 49 

Spurge, 193; laurel, 129 
Spurrey, 193 
Squash, 144 
St. Bernard lily, 97 
St. John's wort, 194 
Stachys, 193 
Star thistle, 118 
Statice, 189, 198, 40 
Sullaria, 119 
Sticktight, 104 
Stonecrop, 193 
Stork's bill, 134 
Strawberry, 194; tree, 194 
Sugarberry, 118 
Sumac, 195 

Sunflower, 195, 40, 44, 50 
Swede, 109 

Swedish whitebeam, 196 
Sweet clover, 165, 36; corn, 162; pep- 
per bush, 12 1 ; sultan, 118, 40 
Sycamore, 82, 36, 48 
Symphoricarpus, 191, 36, 39, 41 
Symphytum, 123 
Syringa, 159 

Tamarisk, 196, 41, 46 
Tamaxix, 196 
Tanacetum, 196 
Tannehonig, 49 
Tansy, 196 
Taraxacum, 89 
Tares, 204 
Taxus, 2 1 1 
Tea tree, 196 
Teazle, 197, 16, 35, 44 
Teucrium, 211 
Thalictrum, 197 
Thistle, 197 
Thlaspi, 175 
Thrift, 198, 41 
Thuya, 47 

Thyme, 199, 41, 42 
Thymus, 199 

Tilia, 59, 23 

Toadflax, 199 

Tobacco, 200 

Tomato, 200 

Traveller's joy, 121 

Tree honey, 17, 77; mallow, 158 

Tree-of-Heaven, 200 

Trefoil, 58, 161; small yellow, 58 

Trifolium, 52, 58, 38 

Trillium, 201, 41 

Tripetaleia, 21 

Tropaeolum, 170 

Tulip, 201, 41; tree, 201, n, 13 

Tulipa, 20 1 

Tupelo, 202, 13 

Turnip, 202 

Tussilago, 122 

Ulex, 143 
Ulmus, 132 
Urtica, 171 

Vaccinium, 104 

Valerian, 203 

Valeriana, 203 

Vegetable marrow, 203, 144 

Vegetables, 42 

Verbascum, 203 

Verbena, 204 

Veronica, 204, 41 

Vervain, 204 

Vetch, 204 

Vetchling, 205 

Viburnum, 157 

Vicia, 204 

Viola, 206 

Violet, 206 

Viper's bugloss, 206, 36 

Virginia creeper, 207 

Viscaria, 40 

Vitamins, 17 

Vitis, 144 

Wagner pea, 205 

Wallflower, 207 

Walnut, 208 

Wasps, 29 

Water avens, 140; cress, 208; pepper 

Wax, 27 


Weigclia, 130 

Whinberry, 104 

Whitethorn, 80 

Whitlow grass, 208 

Whortleberry, 104 

Wild lilac, 117; mustard, 80; plum, 

1 06; radish, 181; thyme, 199 
Willow, 208, 36, 47, 50 
Willow herb, 85, 36, 44; hairy, 86 
Windbreaks, 44 
Winter aconite, 210, 15, 41 , 43; cress, 

210; heliotrope, 112 
Wisteria, 210 


Woad, 210 

Wolf berry, 191 

Woodbine, 151 

Wood lily, 41; rush, 190; sage, 211 

Wormwood, 211 

Woundwort, 193 

Yellow-wood, 211 
Yew, 211,46 

Zea, 162 
Zinnia, 40